The Bible shows us that Christians do have a responsibility to be involved in government. In my article: Exploring the Limits of Civil Government, I explain that Jesus’ commands apply to governments, not just to individuals and because they do,…
This document addresses a popular but irrational interpretation of “the separation of church and state.” It’s a fairly common belief today that the separation of church means that the government is required to operate in a completely neutral way when it comes to religion. I would like to explain why this view is both irrational and dangerous to liberty. As I’ve said before, philosophical neutrality is fallacious and when an interpretation of the constitution is irrational, it could easily lead to tyranny.
The Founders’ Thoughts
It is possible that some of the founders believed they were neutral to all religions, but it is clear that they didn’t design a system of government that would actually work that way. The constitution merely disallowed the federal government to govern what they considered to be the exercise of religion. It is well known that the founders didn’t want the federal government specifying certain matters for the states or for the individual. The problem is that they also made claims based on the existence of God, that did apply to everyone. Unfortunately for us, the range of practices considered to be personal choices and the ones considered to be moral and virtuous for all, are not really self-evident to everyone today. As Christians, we must realize that no matter what the constitution’s problems are, our God is real, what He demands of government is not optional for anyone.
We do know that many of the founders favored Christian principles and those principles were reflected in the things they said and wrote. Here’s what some of the prominent founders of the United States said:
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim tribute to patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness — these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. . . . reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principles.” – George Washington, First President of the United States, Farewell Address
“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” – John Adams, Second President of the United States
“Providence has given to our people the choice of their ruler, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.” – John Jay, First Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, Second Governor of New York
The Absurd Results of Religious Neutrality
No matter what a person believes about it, complete religious neutrality isn’t possible. It isn’t achievable because religions frequently define opposing sets of requirements. At best, a government can only pretend to be religiously neutral. Consider the religious practices of human sacrifice and cannibalism. If the United States government were really neutral, it would be required to allow these things to take place. It’s obvious to most of us that the government should not allow this, but by not allowing it, the government isn’t really being neutral.
This pretended neutrality also makes it easier for a government to destroy itself. We have seen this appear in the United States as some have suggested that the system of government itself is not neutral and must be dismantled. This is a crafty method of revolution because even if the government is torn down, a new non-neutral government will fill the void.
Over 100 years ago, a well respected pastor in England named J. C. Ryle, gave us this warning:
“To tell us that a Government must leave religion alone, because it cannot promote it without favouring one Church more than another, is simply absurd. It is equivalent to saying that, as we cannot do good to everybody, we are to sit still and do no good at all.”J. C. Ryle (J.C. Ryle on the Government’s Role)
Opening a Door to Tyranny
When a government pretends to be religiously neutral, it damages the rule of law. It enables a tyranny to be empowered by a well known philosophical error. In logic, it’s well established that if you allow a single inconsistency in your worldview, it can be used to prove anything you want it to. This is sometimes called The Principle of Explosion. If a person can convince you to believe in a contradiction, it paves the way for them to manipulate you. If an inconsistency is used as a means of government, it can be used as a manipulation technique to make all of its behavior seem reasonable when it really isn’t.
If a government doesn’t admit its bias, it actually opens the door to tyranny. By choosing when it will pretend to be neutral and when it will not, it can make its subjective philosophy dominant over the objective philosophy of others. Since the founders intended our country to be governed by law not people, the only workable interpretation of the separation of church and state must be one that allows the government to continue to operate by law. The only way for a society to be governed by the rule of law instead of man is for that law to ultimately be in subordination to God’s law. This is a Christian principle and it was a common belief in the west at the time our government was being formed.
What Christians Believe about Government
Christians firmly believe that each person’s decision to become a Christian is personal and autonomous. If a person were to be forced to become a Christian, they would not really be a Christian. Christians also believe that whether or not you choose to be a Christian, all mankind must obey certain civil laws. These civil laws are clear and obvious in the Bible. They include things like fornication, theft, murder and lying in court. The Bible teaches that Christian morality is to be upheld, even among non-Christians. Because Christian principles are based on God’s law in the Bible, no man or government can avoid or change them. This standard exposes human tyranny and promotes liberty because every individual knows that they are free to think and speak as long as they live within the clear and simple civil laws of God provided in the Bible.
Some might wonder how Christians would expect non-Christians to abide by their Bible’s civil laws? The answer is that God has placed a conscience into each person, whether they choose to become a Christian or not. For instance, even in places where the Bible isn’t known, people know that murder is wrong. They also know that cheating, theft and taking someone else’s wife is wrong. The problem is that mankind tends to purposefully corrupt his conscience in order do things that give him pleasure. A person’s inner compass can be suppressed. God’s written civil laws go along with a person’s conscience and a good government merely enforces that conscience so that people can live together in freedom and harmony. This may be distasteful to those who are accustomed to living for their own passions in spite of their conscience, but it is the best thing for them and for their community. More importantly, it is what God, or Creator requires.
J.C. Ryle on the Government’s Role
Read more about what a honorable pastor and follower of the Bible said about the the Church and state.
Rebuilding America’s Foundation
This is something I wrote as I lamented the moral deterioration of the United States. It contains some more quotes that you may want to see by American leaders regarding the Christian worldview that forms the foundation of the American republic.
The Fallacy of Neutrality
I develop the Pretended Neutrality Fallacy a little bit more in this article demonstrating that it is immediately self-refuting.
Exploring the Limits of Civil Government
This document does a better job of explaining the true role of government. The reason that there is a separation of church and state is because God is the only one who gives authority to men and He made the distinction between the two. This is an exploration of the doctrine of governmental authority.
The Christian foundations of the rule of law in the West: a legacy of liberty and resistance against tyranny
This is a very detailed document that discusses issues regarding the history and application of the rule of law in western governments.
220 Days in Luke – Day 103: The Separation of Church and State
I also commented on this subject in my devotional commentary in the book of Luke. You can find that here.
**revised on 10/23/2020 *** This document is intended to provide a specific response to government mask mandates based on God’s written law. It’s intended to answer these questions: Is it wrong for governments to issue mask mandates? If it is, should Christians obey the mandates anyway? If Christians shouldn’t obey, how are we to live?
The biblical role of government is given to us in a combination of Old and New Testament teaching. The laws that God gave to Moses, tell us what God expects of individuals. They tell us when an individual has violated God’s law and what the punishments for disobedience are. The New Testament provides more about what government’s role is today in relation to God’s previously defined laws. God spoke through Paul in Romans 13:1-7 and Peter in 1 Peter 2:11-17 and in these passages we learn that God gives civil government the right to discover which individuals have done wrong and to punish them for crimes with the punishments specified in the laws given to Moses. It’s important to remember that God provides a process to make sure that the crime was actually committed. Wrongfully punishing an innocent person is also treated as a crime. Crimes without a specific punishment are left for God alone to punish. For more on this, listen to Dr. Jason Lisle’s message on The Law of God.
Since God only tasks government with the job of punishing crimes with specified punishments, we are limited to determining if the law of Moses has a mask mandate or something like it, and if so, see if it has a punishment specified for breaking it. Surprisingly, there is a law that specifies a face covering:
““The leper in whom the plague is shall wear torn clothes, and the hair of his head shall hang loose. He shall cover his upper lip, and shall cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ All the days in which the plague is in him he shall be unclean. He is unclean. He shall dwell alone. His dwelling shall be outside of the camp.”Leviticus 13:45-46 (emphasis mine)
It’s interesting that the face covering requirement here only permits the covering of the mouth and not the nose. Future discussions could clarify the form of covering and the disease specified, but the most important thing to realize here is that that God’s mandate only specifies that a sick person be “masked.” The passage also specifies the process by which certain diseases are detected, none of which are asymptomatic. The process by which a person was determined to be sick was objective. It couldn’t have a “false positive” as many obscure tests have today. Once again, a false positive could end up putting a well person in isolation and that would be a violation of the law in regard to punishing the innocent. Read the first 44 verses of Leviticus 13 to get a more complete picture.
What we learn here is that there is no biblical mask mandate for a person who is not sick. Forcing people who are well to wear a mask is not only not biblical, it is in violation of biblical law. A well person is not to be put in jail for not wearing a mask. Also, there was no further requirements for the sick other than to be in isolation until their symptoms were clearly gone. It is quite clear that it is wrong for a government to mandate that masks be worn by well people based on this passage.
This answers the first question and we can move on to the next. Assuming the mask mandates are illegal, the question now is: Should we offend our leaders by refusing to comply? This is where the law gets more complicated.
Thankfully, it appears that God anticipated that we would encounter problems like these. When Paul was giving instructions to Christian converts, he had to deal with the fact that many of them were slaves. I am told that about 50% of the people living in the Roman empire were under some form of slavery. The Bible teaches us that all slavery is wrong for Christians. Here’s what it says:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”Galatians 3:28
Paul was tasked by God to tell the slaves what to do when they became Christians while under human bondage. Since God didn’t see them as being any less than their masters, should they offend their masters and demand release? Should they run away? What should they do? I bring this to our attention, because the same principle appears to apply to us regarding mask mandates. When our leadership decides to require us to do something God doesn’t, we are being forced into slavery. When we, as Christians, find ourselves enslaved to a government, we are in a similar situation. So let’s look at what Paul told slaves like us to do:
“Let each man stay in that calling in which he was called. Were you called being a bondservant? Don’t let that bother you, but if you get an opportunity to become free, use it. For he who was called in the Lord being a bondservant is the Lord’s free man. Likewise he who was called being free is Christ’s bondservant. You were bought with a price. Don’t become bondservants of men. Brothers, let each man, in whatever condition he was called, stay in that condition with God.”1 Corinthians 7:20-24
God tells us that if we find ourselves enslaved to a man as a Christian that we take any opportunity to be free available. If we apply this to mask wearing, it would appear to be saying that if we find ourselves forced by the government to wear a mask, even though they shouldn’t be mandating it, we should go ahead and comply until we can find a way to be free legally. At this point, It may appear that we have answered the second question, but there are more complications to consider.
One of the many amazing things about God’s law is that He applied His laws directly to individuals. It would appear that it is upon this fact that human liberty is founded. The Bible teaches that when a government or a master tells an individual to do something that goes against God’s law, that the individual is to obey God instead of man.
“When they had brought them, they set them before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “Didn’t we strictly command you not to teach in this name? Behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and intend to bring this man’s blood on us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.”Acts 5:27-29
The Jewish leadership of Peter’s time had requested that they stop spreading the word about Jesus, but God had already told them to do the opposite. Even though they were obligated to follow the Jewish leadership by God’s law, they had to disobey and suffer for it in order to be obedient to the law of God as an individual. This behavior was also clearly demonstrated by the Old Testament prophets.
So the next question we must answer is: “Does God tell us to not wear a mask?”
There isn’t a specific law in the Bible that tells a person that he can’t wear a mask. So, if we base our decision on this, it would appear that we are required to obey our governmental masters and wear masks, but once again, there’s more complication in the law that we must consider.
There is a condition, specified in the New Testament, in which it is wrong to do something that we would otherwise be free to do. It’s a significant doctrine of New Testament Christianity and has to do with meat sacrificed to idols. During the Roman rule, pagans would take their best meat and offer it up to the gods like Zeus and Hermes. The temple workers would then take this meat and sell it in the market as the meat that was sacrificed to the gods. Everyone knew that this was the best of the best. Christians and Jews had qualms with this. This was sacrificed to an idol so some thought that eating this meat was like participating in idol worship. Paul said that it wasn’t wrong, individually, as long the individual had enough knowledge to realize that Zeus wasn’t a real god. Even so, there was a wrong way for this individual to use this freedom. Here’s the problem:
“For though there are things that are called “gods”, whether in the heavens or on earth; as there are many “gods” and many “lords”; yet to us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we live through him. However, that knowledge isn’t in all men. But some, with consciousness of the idol until now, eat as of a thing sacrificed to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.”1 Corinthians 8:5-7
Paul warns the knowledgeable that they must pay attention to what their actions portray to those around them. I believe that the term used today is: “signaling.” Back then, if you were caught eating at the the temple to Zeus, a “weak” Christian might see you and decide that it’s actually O.K. to worship Jesus and Zeus. The knowledgeable Christian would be signaling the wrong thing to the ignorant person, effectively destroying his weak faith. Even though we are free to eat anywhere, it becomes wrong again when what we are signalling destroys someone else, causing them to sin.
So, before we conclude that it’s O.K. to wear face masks under our current conditions, we must ask ourselves: “Would our mask wearing signal something inappropriate to those around us?”
I believe that this is where we all must make our own personal assessment. If you don’t believe that we are in a public health emergency, and you indicate the opposite to those around you, you are lying and that is a violation of the 9th commandment. In fact, you might be misleading those who have less knowledge than you and causing them to act irrationally. This issue can have very serious consequences in society as a whole. As Churches are being sued and pastors going to jail, it’s pretty obvious that the government can’t be trusted with too much power. Would we, by wearing a mask, make people believe that the government needs to continue to control our lives as they take away more and more liberty?
The Coronavirus is no longer a public health emergency in most places in the United States and it may have never been. Statewide mask mandates may create a false signal that there actually is a public health emergency when there actually isn’t one anymore. I don’t know why our leaders would force us to do this. Perhaps its because they don’t believe in God and His power to help us, but here’s what God’s law says to us:
“You shall not spread a false report. Don’t join your hand with the wicked to be a malicious witness.”Exodus 23:1
In my earlier version of this document, I asserted that I thought wearing a mask would almost always be signalling to others that we believe that there is a health emergency. I have since come to believe that most people are aware that we are under a mandate and because of that, we are merely “signalling” to each other that we are obeying the authorities.
That being said, you may be forced to wear a mask in order to buy groceries or to do your job. It doesn’t really matter what you are signalling at that point. Everyone knows that they have been forced to do something against their will by the authorities. That places us back under slavery only this is slavery by forces outside of ourselves. We shouldn’t willingly place ourselves under the mandate, but it has become clear that the mandates have been imposed upon us against our will.
I don’t think it is good for us to just go along with mask mandates, however. One loss of freedom will likely lead to another. Instead, I believe that we should do everything in our power to stop them. On thing we can do is to ask our pastors, police and sheriff to disregard these wrongful mandates. We can call on “lesser magistrates” to help protect us by seeking them out and rallying around them when they take their stand against the illegal laws of the higher authorities.
If you are one of those lesser magistrates, or if you are simply one under authority and want to know more, here’s a link to The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates. A lesser magistrate can be a local sheriff, a city council member, a governor, a district attorney and others. When someone is willing to take a stand, we need to let them know we are right behind them. Amazing freedom has returned to people when lesser magistrates have taken a stand.
Finally, as with any injustice of man, it is our duty as believers to remember who we are fighting. Although it is true that those who oppress us are human, the Bible tells us that the real enemy cannot be seen. Let’s stay focused on what God wants us to focus on.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world’s rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”Ephesians 6:10-13
Questioning Mask Mandates
In this article, I ask important questions that should be answered rationally by governments regarding mask mandates.
The Law of God by Jason Lisle
It is important for us to recognize that the government is responsible to the Law of God just as we are. This message explains the importance of the Law of God to our lives today as Christians.
The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates
Learn how our government officials can help us restore our governments to their proper function.
If philosophical neutrality is a fallacy, as I previously asserted, then building a government on this philosophy is a critically serious problem. It appears to be a trend in governments across the world and it looks like a plan forged by the powers of darkness to me.
Peace does not come by the careful application of a fallacy. It only comes through love and proper reasoning and that will mean that those who are thinking irrationally will have to be exposed. That exposure doesn’t feel very good and some will fight to death over it, but I know from experience that true humility brings peace when we are finally willing to admit that we are wrong.
I was reading a report from a few years ago, about a Canadian ruling that was addressing the contents of prayers before meetings. I am told that they were warning that there are prayers that may not be legal. This appears to be a clear case of philosophical absolutism to me. The United States has it share of the same kind of thing, as do other countries.
We may be tempted to assert that a government should stay out of speech related issues, but in reality, how can they? A government must assert a philosophy of some kind or else it cannot function. It has no choice. The problem with what governments are doing is that the philosophy they are asserting is often irrational. You can’t rationally assert a philosophy that assumes that no philosophy should be asserted. A government built on a foundation of irrationality is in no position to bring about peace or anything else.
With great sorrow, I see the problem again in the recent speeches of both President Trump and Vice-President Pence. Their words sound like an attempt to respect all religions and creeds, even though it is obvious that they can’t. In many of the same speeches, they rightly express that that there are certain creeds and religions that they do not respect, such as those that kill people or promote the destruction of the United States or disrespect its constitution. Are these not creeds and religions? This is confusing to say the least. That’s not what made America great.
If they intend to go back to America’s foundation, they must return to the doctrine of Christian tolerance which asserts that although Christians don’t respect other creeds and religions, they do tolerate them to a degree in civil life, because that’s what Jesus expects us to do until He chooses to deal with them Himself. Christian tolerance is built on the concepts of free will, grace (meaning favoring others when they don’t really deserve it), and the fact that Jesus is still alive and able to take care of the wicked without our help. Christians desire that all men will come to know Jesus by willingly accepting His offer. This means that, according to Christian tolerance, there can be no force when it comes to individual choice either. This is the basis for American liberty and it also happens to be non-neutral.
So why is this a big deal? It’s because it’s this issue that leads a people toward either liberty or tyranny. If a government doesn’t have the authority over life, liberty and personal property, it definitely doesn’t have authority over the Creator that endowed those rights. Any government that thinks it does that is indicating that it believes it is the supreme authority in certain matters. Even if taking God’s place isn’t intentional, that’s what is being communicated and it leaves the door open to serious future problems. Even now we are seeing the desire for philosophical respect drive the followers of various ideas to converge against Christianity, asking that it either comply or be silenced by “civil” government. Since Christian tolerance is the basis for our liberty, freedom as we know it is in serious danger. What governments must do is to acknowledge that their right to rule comes from the God of the Bible, the true One that the Christians have acknowledged.
Other brands of neutral thinking have already been used in the west and have failed quite miserably at critical times. Recall that Neville Chamberlain attempted to bring peace in his time using a method that would allow the UK to respect Hitler’s choices. President FDR signed a peace agreement with Japan in a similar gesture right before we entered the war. It’s important for us to remember how well those things worked out. How about those Israeli peace agreements?
It’s important to ask ourselves: What good is peace if freedom is taken away? There is a way for peace and freedom to coexist, but it depends on Christian philosophy, because that’s the only way they fit together without the government becoming an irrational tyrant.
Science is the study of physical things that can be repeatedly observed, and by doing experiments, it has been observed that order is a fundamental element of physical systems. In living systems, this order takes the form of programming, which we recognize as a very complicated form of linguistic information. This doesn’t fit well with the ideas of evolution because evolution usually tries to explain change as a random process that happens when energy is applied to matter. I believe, that at least one reason we don’t consider this to be a problem, is because we were only exposed to part of the truth about the fundamental elements of universe in school.
In an effort to stay within the bounds of naturalism, public schools teach two things that don’t work together. We see this in the difference between what was taught in health class and what was taught in science class.
In health class, we are warned about germs and ways to protect ourselves from doing things like eating canned goods that have had the seal broken. We are told that as long as the seal of a canned item is unbroken, an unwanted organism cannot get through and contaminate it.
Now when we go to science class, we are told something else, but it isn’t obvious at first. Evolutionary science teaches something that could be simplified into a formula like this:
Matter + Energy = Life!
One thing that was shown to me is that we are capable of doing this experiment ourselves, but I suggest that we go back to health class to do it! Let’s take a sealed can of beans and put it in a shaking machine. Let’s also heat it up to just above room temperature. Let’s leave it there all day. Then let’s open it up at the end of the day and see what kinds of new life has formed.
Note that we had this formula:
Beans + (Shaking and Heat) = ?
To our dismay, when we open the can we find no new life. There is no mold or anything. We added a significant amount of heat and shaking. The amount of pounds of pressure that was sent through the can could probably have built a house. What we are experiencing is a way in which the formula we are taught in science class doesn’t appear to work. We still eat cans of beans that haven’t been opened yet, even though the temperature has changed, it has been shaken and light has been showing on it. We could have even been exposed to an magnet. Did you realize that this experiment is performed over and over every day all over the world? There are literally millions of cans being stored every year. The government is so concerned with the reality of this that they make laws to ensure that business abide by health class rules and not science class rules.
Here’s the formula being carefully controlled by health organizations:
Matter + Energy + Information = Life!
I would argue that there are actually three fundamentals of nature and one of them isn’t physical. Information is from outside nature. It’s “super” natural, and we don’t observe nature without it. Once the right kind of information is introduced into a can of beans, we quickly discover new life forms. If information is kept from being introduced into the experiment, only the existing life forms are left, but only until they break down (but that’s another topic).
The Bible has been telling us the truth the whole time. Even when we didn’t understand the nature of germs or DNA yet. Unlike a science book, it didn’t have to change to protect its philosophy.