Timothy Keller offers one the quickest and best understandings of church and state from a biblical perspective that you will find. It comes in chapter two of his book, Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just.
“In the Old Testament believers comprised a single nation-state, with divinely appointed land apportionments and with a religious law code backed up by civil sanctions. … but in the New Testament this changed. Christians now do not constitute a theocratic kingdom-state, but exist as an international communion of local assemblies living in every nation and culture. … Jesus’s famous teaching to ‘render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s’ (Matthew 22:21) signaled this change in the relationship between church and state to one of ‘non-establishment.’
“Though believers are still a ‘covenant community,’ a people who are bound together to obey God’s will, the church is not a state. So the apostle Paul, for example, calls for the rebuke of an adulterer in the Corinthian church. And if he does not repent, says Paul, expel him from membership in the community (1 Corinthians 5). Nevertheless, Paul does not demand his execution, as would have been the case in Israel.” (pp.21-22)
This is so helpful. It’s interesting that American Christians on both sides of the church-state separation debate tend to focus on the founders of our nation and not the Founder of our faith.
The two sides, in case you missed it, are basically identified this way: In one corner of the “boxing” ring we have the defender’s of Thomas Jefferson’s wall of separation of church and state. And in other corner we have those who believe the United States was essentially a Christian nation that granted freedom of religion. You might have guessed, I go with the former group.
No need to argue all of that now. Keller simply gives a good perspective.
(This is my second post on Keller’s book. The first is here.)