Church-State Reflections: Why I Couldn’t Have Been an English Anglican Until After WWII (Miniblog #208)
I hold to what Mark Noll describes as “political Lutheranism.” It’s a two kingdom understanding of the relationship between church and state which recognizes critical distinctions between their functions and purposes. It advocates neither the withdrawal of nor hegemony from Christians.11.“All it takes for evil to succeed is good men to do nothing.” “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” These are the two extremes which are to be principally avoided. Instead Christians are to continuously negotiate how they ought to participate within the public square, and especially politics. There aren’t a lot of hard rules. Instead they must wrestle with how they are to be a faithful presence within the political arena rather than practicing absenteeism or domination, neglect or coercion.22.It’s no easy task. There are few cut-and-dried answers. And that’s precisely the point. The whole position is predicated upon ongoing discernment. This enables Christians to maintain their allegiance to Christ and His Kingdom alone while at the same time not abandoning the cultural, geo-political, and socio-economic realities. It’s the best, and indeed the only remotely satisfactory, way I’ve found to be in the political world but not of the political world.33.It ain’t perfect or doctrinaire, but therein lies the beauty. I say all of that to say this: I stand with Roger Williams and many other historic christian figures who were steadfastly opposed to state churches such as the Church of England. Having thought a good deal on this over the past few years, I’ve tentatively concluded that were I English I couldn’t have been Anglican until at least several years after WWII.44.It seems to me it wasn’t until after that time that English nationalism was meaningfully decoupled from the national ecclesiastical institution. Only then would my political Lutheranism likely be tolerated or even welcomed. Shoot, I might still struggle with it a bit today. Despite not believing the American Revolution was a just war, I am thankful for its influence in this regard on this side of the pond.