Timothy N. Baldwin, JD.
October 21, 2011
Religion and Church
What is the role of religion and the church in government? This is undoubtedly a sensitive subject for many. In America, the “separation of church and state” idea, along with the 501(c)(3) corporate status has distorted most of the philosophy which shaped the formation of the United States. And regardless of whether Christians realize or admit it, Georg Hegel’s philosophy plays a much more significant role in how churches operate today than Enlightenment philosophy and even Scriptures.
The philosophical origin of America’s idea about religion in government was not based upon religious institutions (i.e. Baptist, Presbyterian, etc.), but rather upon the notions of the Creator God and His natural laws. The Enlightenment philosophers advocated the importance of knowing and understanding God and His creation to produce liberty and its blessings.
To the Enlightenment, principles of liberty existed “before the name of Christ was known in the world” because it has “its root in common sense” (Algernon Sidney, Discourses Concerning Government, Ch. 2, Sec. 2). In other words, Christianity itself was not the foundation of liberty. Liberty exists because God and his creation exist. However, these philosophers recognized the importance that Christianity played in advancing the principles of freedom.
Despite the claim that moderns may make about the individual’s worth in society and government, even Georg Hegel acknowledged that Christianity played a substantial role in expanding individual liberty. Hegel says, “[i]t is about a millennium and a half since the freedom of personality began through the spread of Christianity to blossom and gain recognition as a universal principle” (Georg Hegel, The Philosophy of Right, Introduction, Sec. 62). Ironically, many moderns reject the part Christianity and Scriptures play in preserving liberty.
It would hardly take a scholar to observe that most, if not all, of the Enlightenment philosophers used Scriptures as a foundation and supplement of liberty’s exposition, in addition to reason and natural law. Algernon Sidney (one of Thomas Jefferson’s top 2 favorite philosophers) describes our knowledge “between good and evil” this way: “1. When God by his word reveals it to us. 2. When by his deeds he declareth it…3. By the light of reason, which is good, in as much as it is from God” (Sidney, Discourses Concerning Government, Ch. 1, Sec. 13).
Enlightenment philosophers showed that religion and the church were to play a significant role in maintaining a free society by influence and education. As God created laws for all of mankind to obey, God also gave man reason to understand and incorporate those laws societally and personally. Emer de Vattel describes religion’s influence this way, “God could only give laws suitable to the nature of things, and particularly to the essence and nature of man, whom he instructs to observe them…But how will they know these most advantageous laws?...We attain knowledge of these laws through reason” (Emer de Vattel, Essay on the Foundation of Natural Law and on the First Principle of the Obligation Men Find Themselves Under to Observe Laws, Sec. VIII-IX). Each individual has and must use reason to understand and apply these principles. Moreover, they have a duty to enforce these laws in government.
Enlightenment philosophers saw a need “to preserve a People at Peace with one another,” and “to [this] End it is convenient to take Care, that the Christian Religion, after the most pure and most uncorrupt Way, be profess’d by the Subjects of every Realm or Community; and that no Tenets be publickly taught in the Schools, that are contrariant to the Designs of Government” (Samuel Pufendorf, The Whole Duty of Man, Ch. 11, Sec. IV). It is no wonder that the Bible was once used as a primary text book in America’s public schools.
A society based upon ideas contrary to this would be destructive to a free society and would encourage tyranny. So, we see how the Enlightenment philosophers advocated the following regarding the importance of religion and the church in relation to government:
“It may be worth the while…to consider the Benefits which through Religion accrue to Mankind; from whence it may appear, that It is in truth the utmost and firmest Bond of Human Society. For in the Natural Liberty, if you take away the Fear of a Divine Power, any Man who shall have confidence in his own Strength, may do what Violences he pleases to others who are weaker than himself, and will account Honest, Modesty, and Truth but as empty Words…[L]ay aside Religion, and the Internal Bonds of Communities will be always slack and feeble…From all which it appears, how much it is the Interest of Mankind, that all Means be used to check the spreading of Atheism in the World; and with what vain Follythose Men are possess’d, who think to get Reputation of being notable Politicians, by being seemingly inclin’d to Looseness and Irreligion” (Pufendorf The Whole Duty of Man, Ch. IV, Sec. VII).
The priority placed on God, religion, and church relative to liberty was not a matter of state-controlled compulsion. It was the role of the church and individuals in society to encourage the teaching and training of liberty’s principles based upon Scripture and natural law so the people could check government. Thus, we see the freedom of religion expressly protected in our original state and federal constitutions.
In short, religion and the church were to serve as the formidable means of checking government’s actions. The same cannot be said, however, of Hegel’s philosophy.
Recall that Hegel acknowledged Christianity as the catalyst for individual liberty and worth in politics. Recall also that Hegel had a certain disdain for the sovereignty of the people, democracy, and republicanism (see parts 1-6). Consequently, Hegel’s view of Christianity was less than favorable as it related to political theories (e.g. Enlightenment philosophy). So, what was Hegel’s view of religion and the Church relative to the State?
First, Hegel believed the State to be supreme over all, and those in control of government possessed all supremacy. Second, Hegel believed “true” religion would never contradict the power of the State. Third, Hegel viewed churches as state Corporations, not institutions of God. Since we have sufficiently covered the first proposition in parts 1-6, let us consider the second and third.
Hegel Proposition 2. To Hegel, a “genuine” church is one that does not oppose the “idea of the State”. Hegel says, “if religion be religion of a genuine kind, it does not run counter to the state in a negative or polemical way” (Hegel, The Philosophy of Right, Part 3). This concept is similar to Hegel’s description of the different branches of government not checking each other in reality but acting as one unit (see part 4). While Hegel acknowledges one’s subjective conscience towards a higher being, he rejects that the individual or church may use this conscience in determining the rightfulness of the State’s action.
Hegel feels that if religion impedes the State and this is deemed right, then it would “produce the demand…that the state should not only allow the church to do as it likes with complete freedom, but that it should pay unconditional respect to those church’s doctrines…because their determination is supposed to be the task of the church” (Ibid).
Hegel must, by all means, deduce that the following political theory is contrary to the “idea of the State”: “the state’s specific function consists in protecting and securing everyone’s life, property, and caprice, in so far as these do not encroach upon the life, property, and caprice of others” (Ibid). Compare this, of course, to the colonies’ Declaration of Independence—government is to secure the ends of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It matters not to Hegel that “the leaders of congregations…feel impelled to withdraw from the state…or whether they remain within the state except in their capacity as ecclesiastics” (Ibid). Allowing ecclesiastics to separate from the authority of the State or proposing that the State’s end is only to protect life, liberty, and property contradicts the “idea of the State” and removes “absolute truth…beyond the reach of the state” (Ibid).
As a logical result of Hegel’s doctrine, he determines, “when the church begins to teach doctrines [that] touch on objective principles,…then their expression eo ipso brings the church into the domain of the state” (Ibid). Put shortly, the church’s realm is only subjective, based in opinion; and the State is objective, based in actuality. The State is the essence of what truth is (see part 2).
Hegel Proposition 3. So, how does Hegel propose that the State control the church? Answer: by uniting them. In contrast to the Enlightenment philosophy, which proposes that uncorrupted religion be taught and advanced by churches and individuals without State control (see, USC, Amend. I), Hegel finds that the “state and church are essentially one in truth of principle and disposition” (Ibid).
Be careful here in your understanding: Hegel stated that while the church and State were unified, their operations would be distinct “between their forms of consciousness” (Ibid). Since their forms are different, one may not realize the essence of their unity. Hegel proposed that this separation-yet-unity would be accomplished through the State vehicle of Corporation status.
Hegel says, “[w]hen individuals, holding religious views in common, form themselves into a church, a Corporation, they fall under the general control and oversight of the higher state officials” (Ibid, emphasis added). A corporation is a fictitious entity created by individuals under the laws of the State. Hegel does not see a corporation as a common law notion at all. Rather, he sees it as a State-created, controlled entity.
Consequently, all corporations’ actions must comport to State supremacy regardless of natural or common law. To Hegel, a church is a Corporation—but not just any corporation: a corporation uniquely positioned to advance the power of the State.
The Church as Corporation
While most churches in America do not want to admit this, they have played directly into the hands of Hegel’s view of the State as Supreme and the church as a Corporation. Through the incorporation of hundreds of thousands of 501(c)(3) entities called “churches” or “non-profit” organizations, what God meant to be independent proclaimers and activators of Truth are now spokesmen for Statism, the preaching of “salvation” notwithstanding.
Hegel cares not that churches preach faith—so long as they do not preach politics. As Hegel puts it, as soon as churches preach about the objective truth relative to the State (i.e. purpose and limits of the State), they have overstepped their authority in usurpation of the State.
Hegel suggest that people not go to church or be atheists? Just the opposite:
Hegel proposed that the State require citizens to attend church—State-approved
church of course. But why?
Answer: the indoctrination of Statism. Adolf Hitler used this tactic quite well (see, Erwin Lutzer, Hitler’s Cross). Hegel says, “implanting a sense of unity [of church and state] in the depths of men’s minds, the state should even require all its citizens to belong to a church” (Ibid).
In other words, citizens should belong to state-approved/corporate churches so the pastors can “implant” in them the proper role of the State and church. The churches thus serve as the State’s ambassadors in society. As such, these churches would use Scripture to justify unconditional submission to the State, including a distorted view of Romans chapter 13 (See my and Chuck Baldwin’s new book release of Romans 13: The True Meaning of Submission).
Hardly anyone today, even open Hegel followers, would follow Hegel’s advice and suggest that the State require citizens to attend a state-approved church. What they cannot accomplish through the front door, however, they do through the back door. In so doing, Hegel and his followers have accomplished his vision for the church.
The method of executing Hegel’s goal is doing what the federal and state governments have done concerning 501(c)(3), non-profit tax exempt status: if you attend an incorporated, state-approved church, you can receive State benefits. Is this benign “faith-based” government programming? Even if purportedly benign, what is the effect?
Consider that upon this State-created carrot, generations of American Christians have invested trillions of dollars in infrastructure, properties, programs, payroll, local and national outreach, advertisements, equipment, TV and radio programs, retirement and insurance plans, housings, vehicles, educational institutions, daycare facilities, etc.—all in the name of their tax-benefitted corporation. Corporate Christianity is perhaps one of the biggest money-spending ventures in America.
Do you really think the presidents, secretaries, and board members of those organizations will risk losing or diminishing those monies, members, assets, investments, and titles by countering the main-stream flow of, say, a choice political party, favored candidate, etc.—or the IRS tax collectors and enforcers with their guns, badges, and attorneys? Couple that with the impact our failing economy has had on these corporations. The answer is obviously, no.
Hegel’s “Genuine” Church in America
Hegel’s concept of “genuine” religion thus rings true in America: it will not counter the State. Consequently, Christian pastors and leaders refuse to “get political” because, as they try to convince us, “Romans 13 commands us to submit to government no matter what”. They use both their corporate status and Scriptures to justify their and our passivity, indifference, or greed.
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The cunning use of corporate status has effectively caused preachers and religious leaders to silence their voices; close their minds; stifle their denunciation of injustice; and incentivize their compliance with those in power of politics and party agenda. All the while, our country slips further from its Enlightenment roots into the abyss of Hegelianism.
If Georg Hegel were alive today, he would be proud to see his work being fulfilled in America.
(Subscribe to Tim Baldwin’s articles by going to www.libertydefenseleague.com and enter your email address in the appropriate box. Also, order Tim’s and Chuck Baldwin’s new book, Romans 13-The True Meaning of Submission at www.Romans13Truth.com)
The following subjects will be further developed.
Individual Freedom and State Supremacy (Part 2)
B. Formation and Purpose of the State (Part 3)
C. Interpreting and Applying the Constitution (Part 4)
D. Republicanism and Democracy (Part 5)
E. The People’s Right of Revolution (Part 6)
F. Religion/Church (Part 7)
G. War (Part 8)
Subscribe to Tim Baldwin’s articles by going towww.libertydefenseleague.com and enter your email address in the appropriate box.
© 2011 Timothy N. Baldwin, JD - All Rights Reserved
Timothy Baldwin is an attorney licensed to practice law in Montana (and Florida) and focuses on constitutional issues. Baldwin graduated from the University of West Florida in 2001 with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in English and Political Science. In 2004, Baldwin graduated from Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, AL with a Juris Doctorate (JD) degree. From there, Baldwin became an Assistant State Attorney in Florida. For 2 1/2 years, Baldwin prosecuted criminal actions and tried nearly 60 jury trials. In 2006, Baldwin started his private law practice and has maintained it since.
Baldwin is a published author, public speaker and student of political philosophy. Baldwin is the author of Freedom For A Change, Romans 13-The True Meaning of Submission, and Political Discussions for People of States–all of which are available for purchase through Liberty Defense League. Baldwin has also authored hundreds of political science articles relative to liberty in the United States of America. Baldwin has been the guest of scores of radio shows and public events and continues to exposit principles which the people in America will need to determine its direction for the future.
Web site: LibertyDefenseLeague