Journal addresses issues of church and state

Communications Staff — February 18, 2008

Christians have a responsibility to participate in the political process and express their views as Christians while remembering that their foremost allegiance is to the Lord of the church rather than the state, according to authors in the most recent issue of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology.

Journal editor Stephen J. Wellum points out that Christians have wrestled with the relationship between church and state since the first century. The present, however, is a particularly important time for believers to know where they stand on the issue, he argues in his editorial.

“Now given the fact that Christians have wrestled with these issues throughout the ages, and especially given the fact that 2008 is an election year in the United States, we thought that an edition of SBJT devoted to various reflections on the relationship between church and state would be not only be helpful for our readers, but also instructive and wise,” he writes.

Political involvement is a mandate for the Christian but must be held in proper perspective, Wellum writes.

“To be sure, this kind of Christian political involvement does not cancel out the spiritual form of Christ’s church and kingdom, nor does it call the state to promote the gospel with political power and muscle,” he argues. “But it does mean that as the church, we have a responsibility to call the state to carry out what God demands and expects of all governments.”

In the journal four Southern Seminary professors and three additional evangelical scholars address the issue of church and state from various perspectives. The journal also includes a forum on Christian responsibility in the public square featuring Southern professors Thomas R. Schreiner and Michael A.G. Haykin along with evangelical scholars D.A. Carson and Jonathan Leeman.

Russell D. Moore, senior vice president of academic administration and dean of the school of theology, surveys current evangelical positions on Israel’s future and argues that all Christians should both stand against violence directed toward the Jewish people and see Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel.

“Our commitment to the Christic fulfillment of all the promises of God ought not to cause us to turn our backs on our Lord’s kinsmen according to the flesh, but to redouble our efforts to support them when they are attacked by the forces of anti-Semitic hatred,” Moore writes. “In so doing, we are focused, ultimately, not on geopolitics but on Jesus.”

Other Southern Seminary authors in the journal include Kenneth Magnuson, professor of Christian ethics; Peter Judson Richards, associate professor of theology and law; and Mark Coppenger, professor of Christian apologetics.

Richard Land and Barrett Duke argue that God working through Christians is the only hope for America to reverse its current moral decline. Land serves as president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), and Duke is vice president for public policy and research at the ERLC.

“As He did in the early nineteenth century, so today God can use Christians to make a real difference in our nation’s moral direction,” they write. “We say it will require Christian involvement because the source of our nation’s decline is not political or economic. It is moral relativism.”

Land and Duke explain the meaning of the biblical admonition to be salt and light and discuss the Christian responsibility to engage in the political process.

Other essayists include James Hamilton, assistant
professor of biblical studies at the Havard School for Theological Studies of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The journal also includes a number of book reviews.

To subscribe to the SBJT or obtain further information about it, please contact the journal office at 502-897-4413 or

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