Related: Biblical basis for the separation of church and state

In @Richard's answer on the provided link, he mentioned Mark 12:17 as foundation for Christ teaching separation of church and state.

I was wondering if this is to be taken as doctrine (meaning that the government should always be separated from the Church), or if it should be taken as advice on what to do if government is not united with the Church.

We all know that power corrupts. We've seen it many times in the Old Testament; One particular example of this (off the top of my head) is David, who was a prophet, and a very strong spiritual leader at that.

So, for the actual question:

Are we to understand that Jesus taught separation of Church and state as part of His new Gospel? If not, are we to understand that unification of the Church and the state government is a desirable thing (like in some Islamic states)?


We have, of course, seen the Catholic Church act as (or have a strong influence on) the government in pre-Protestant times; as we all know, the Catholic Church dealt with a lot of corruption in the leadership, so I don't think this can be taken as evidence of a formal declaration of doctrine.

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    I don't think Jesus says much anything about this. He teaches to submit to authorities (Romans 13), and Mark 12:17 can be seen a part of that teaching. He doesn't teach the unification of the church and state either. Commented Sep 28, 2011 at 1:21
  • @dancek - So, does this mean that there is no preferred type of state government? Of course, God would obviously want a government that allows us to worship Him fully.
    – beatgammit
    Commented Sep 28, 2011 at 1:39
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    I'm not saying there's no preferred type of government. I think from the Old Testament and Revelation one could show that the preferred form of government is Theocracy, i.e. no human government. I just wanted to make the point that Jesus himself, while on earth as a human, says nothing of this. (And I failed my wording, making it look like I think Jesus wrote Romans.) Commented Sep 28, 2011 at 1:45
  • I wouldn't even think it matters very much what Jesus said vs. what the Bible says elsewhere, but you're specifically asking what Jesus taught. Commented Sep 28, 2011 at 1:46
  • @dancek - You are correct. I was mostly wondering if Christ taught about it (thereby superseding any previous law), and if not if unification of Church and state (closest thing we can get to a pure Theocracy) is doctrinal.
    – beatgammit
    Commented Sep 28, 2011 at 1:54

2 Answers 2


Richard's answer isn't really teaching for separation of church and state, but rather evidence against fighting it. It shows we are to obey the authorities, but it doesn't say the government cannot be a specific religion. Jesus never taught to keep it separated (that is recorded at least), so it cannot be taken as doctrine. At the same time, he also never preached that the unification is desired.

To have a government that has Christian values would, of course, be desirable (the Bible is considered to be the greatest book of morals ever written by a lot of non-Christians). However, Christianity is about choosing to have a relationship with Jesus. To have a government that forces everyone to be Christian could easily cause a lot of people to conform publicly, but resent Jesus privately. This is why I believe He never tried to make that unification.

  • So, would you say that the governments in the Old Testament weren't necessarily there because they were ideals, but because that is how they naturally evolved? I guess the root of my question is, "If a new country were to be created, would there be a valid Biblical basis for starting it as a Christian government, where nobody was forced to accept Christ?". I would venture to say there is no doctrinal basis, but I don't claim to be a Bible scholar.
    – beatgammit
    Commented Sep 28, 2011 at 1:58
  • @tjameson I believe they were there because God wanted them to be (based on Romans 13), but I do not believe they set a standard for governments today. I also do not believe there is any Biblical basis for starting a Christian government, but there also isn't a Biblical basis against one
    – Cameron
    Commented Sep 28, 2011 at 15:00

Interpretation of @Richard's previous answer aside I know of nothing in the New Testament that either endorses or condemns the concept of the separation of church and state. However, in Romans Paul instructs Christians to submit to the authorities that we are subject to.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Ro 13:1–7). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

I would conclude that the Bible takes the view that God sovereignly ordains whatever earthly authorities are in place, regardless of how we as humans conceive and structure them.

  • So, are you saying that, from evidence that we have, God is impartial in this matter?
    – beatgammit
    Commented Sep 28, 2011 at 1:37
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    I would say that based on Paul's statement that "whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed," the governments in place in this world are the ones that God has ordained. I guess you could call it 'impartial', but I would prefer to say that God's overarching will brings a diverse assortment of government structures into our world and that separation of church and state is only one comparative facet.
    – blundin
    Commented Sep 28, 2011 at 4:01
  • @Blundin: But is this too optimistic view of governance? I mean yes it is stated in the scripture that "there is no authority(government) except from God ", but what about Iranian regime, does it also come from God and is it also instituted by God? If yes, how then it is considered "evil" by christians in Iran? I mean Iranian regime is not allowing iranian christians to practice their religion openly. Is this regime then instituted by God? I do not understand, but hope that this Ro 13:1-7 is really realistic concerning earhly governance.
    – alvoutila
    Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 20:15

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