Saturday, January 29, 2011

Baptist Quotes on Separation of Church and State: 1612

To Bill Jones and Texas Baptists Committed I am grateful. My gratitude is for the courage that they - over the years - have exhibited in telling the story of our Baptist faith. And I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to the conversation within this blog.

The only way in which we can truly know and understand ourselves is through our past. It is our past that shapes us today and propels us into the future.
Thus, history is invaluable. Or more appropriately, the way in which we handle history is crucial in how we live our lives and perceive our world.

Unfortunately, many are the Baptists today whose lives and worldview are constructed upon phony history fabricated by religious hucksters like Texan David Barton.

Indeed, many Baptists - whether intentional or not - live in denial of their own historical faith story. Astonishingly, the very principle that many Baptists today reject is the one core conviction that Baptists of the 17th and 18th centuries were most identified with: separation of church and state.

Baptists' commitment to the great principle of separation of church and state is threaded throughout our history as a people of faith. It birthed us, nurtured us, and (even though many today mock the principle) sustains us at our best.

As a tribute to the one core conviction that most defined our faith forebears apart from other Christians, in the coming weeks I'll highlight some of the voices from our past who can point us to our future as a people of faith, such as: 
"If the Kings people be obedient and true subjects, obeying all humane lawes made by the King, our Lord the King can require no more: for men’s religion to God is betwixt God and themselves; the King shall not answer for it, neither may the King be judge between God and man." — Thomas Helwys (co-founder of the first Baptist church in the world, in 1609 at Amsterdam), A Short Declaration of the Mystery of Iniquity, 1612.

Helwys' words were heresy. Shortly thereafter he was imprisoned by King James I (the same king after whom the King James Bible is named), where he died as a martyr for daring to argue for separation of church and state.

How do Helwys' words apply in the 21st century, a time in which many evangelical Christians in America are bent on constructing special political and judicial privileges for themselves, while denying religious liberty to many minority religious groups and individuals?

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