Oklahoma Governor Claims State For Christ. Controversy Ensues

After his re-election as governor of the State of Oklahoma, the hon. Kevin Stitt appeared at a prayer rally. He said the following:

STITT: “Father, we just claim Oklahoma for you. Every square inch, we claim it for you in the name of Jesus. Father, we can do nothing apart from you. We [wind noise] battle against flesh and blood, against principalities of darkness. Father, we just come against that, we just loose your will over our state right now in the name of Jesus. … We just thank you, we claim Oklahoma for you, as the authority that I have as governor, and the spiritual authority and the physical authority that you give me. I claim Oklahoma for you, that we will be a light to our country and to the world right here on stage. We thank you that your will is done on Tuesday and, Father, that you will have your way with our state, with our education system, with everything within the walls behind me and the rooms behind me, Lord, that you will root out corruption, you will bring the right people into this building, Father, from now on.”

The TheoRecon crowd is very excited about his exercise of dominion over the State of Oklahoma in Jesus’ name. After I objected on Twitter to some of Stitt’s language, a minister in my federation (i.e., denomination) of churches exclaimed that he was dumbfounded. My ministerial colleague should be “dumbfounded” but not for the reasons he thinks.

He should be astounded, amazed, and shocked that a sitting governor, speaking in his office as governor spoke the way he did.

Truth And Error In The Prayer

Let us deal first with the theology of the prayer.

1. Gov. Stitt need not “claim” the State of Oklahoma for Jesus, who already owns it. Indeed, he rules all the nations (and all the fifty states and several territories of the USA). Indeed, as the Psalmist says,

He who sits in the heavens laughs;

the Lord holds them in derision.

Then he will speak to them in his wrath,

and terrify them in his fury, saying,

“As for me, I have set my King

on Zion, my holy hill” (Ps 2:4–6; ESV)

The kings (and governors) of the earth are seated in temporal power at God’s good pleasure. They think that they are powerful but they are mere instruments in his hands. The Lord holds them in derision. He has his King, the ascended Lord Jesus Christ, installed over all the nations and all the governors. As Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of Yahweh; he turns it wherever he will” (ESV). They think that they can make God work for them but, in fact, they all do his bidding.

Christ is sovereign over every square inch. Abraham Kuyper was right: It all belongs to him. What the defenders of Stitt’s language seem not to understand is that Christ exercises his dominion and rule in two distinct spheres. Calvin explained this way:

Therefore, in order that none of us may stumble on that stone, let us first consider that there is a twofold government in man (duplex esse in homine regimen): one aspect is spiritual, whereby the conscience is instructed in piety and in reverencing God; the second is political, whereby man is educated for the duties of humanity and citizenship that must be maintained among men. These are usually called the “spiritual” and the “temporal” jurisdiction (not improper terms) by which is meant that the former sort of government pertains to the life of the soul, while the latter has to do with the concerns of the present life—not only with food and clothing but with laying down laws whereby a man may live his life among other men holily, honorably, and temperately. For the former resides in the inner mind, while the latter regulates only outward behavior. The one we may call the spiritual kingdom, the other, the political kingdom. Now these two, as we have divided them, must always be examined separately; and while one is being considered, we must call away and turn aside the mind from thinking about the other. There are in man, so to speak, two worlds, over which different kings and different laws have authority (Institutes 3.19.15; Battles edition).

I have explained this distinct at considerable length. My dumbfounded colleague and others seem to assume that Christ’s sovereign rule over all things must be manifest in something like Christendom (e.g., an established church) or Christ is not really ruling or his rule is not being properly acknowledged. Christ is ruling whether or not the magistrate acknowledges it. As Cornelis Venema, Kim Riddlebarger, and other amillennialists observe, Christ was reigning over the nations when Nero set Christians on fire and when Decius slaughtered them in numbers, and he was reigning when Theodosius made Christianity the state religion of the empire. He is reigning now that the West has become post-Christian.

According to Calvin, Christians live in two spheres (the sacred and the secular) in God’s kingdom simultaneously. They have distinct responsibilities to each sphere in the kingdom. Attending to those responsibilities according to each sphere does not lessen Christ’s Lordship over both spheres. That Christians live in two spheres simultaneously does sometimes create tensions to be sure and we see some of those in Stitt’s prayer. As a Christian and as a private citizen, Stitt has every right to say that Jesus is Lord over all things. That liberty is not in question. The issue here is that, when he “claimed” the State of Oklahoma for Christ by “the authority that I have as governor,” he confused the two spheres. His job as governor is to serve all the citizens of Oklahoma—Christian, pagan, Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim.

Stitt had no business as governor claiming Oklahoma for Christ. As much as it is his vocation as a Christian and as a private person to advance the Kingdom of God in Oklahoma, through the due use of the means of grace, by prayer, witness, etc., that is not his vocation before the Lord as governor. His vocation as governor is to secure justice for all the citizens of the state and to fulfill his natural, secular responsibilities.

One suspects that adjectives natural and secular will rub some Christians the wrong way. They should not. Every job has natural boundaries. The street paver’s job is not to set the tax levy. The secretary of state’s job is not the arrange road repair. The governor’s job has natural boundaries. He may not intrude on the church and tell the minister what to say. Federal monetary policy or foreign policy are not his business either. His authority is limited by the Constitution of the State of Oklahoma. The adjective secular is an honorable word. Calvin used it in the passage quoted above. As governor, Stitt is not functioning in a religious or sacred capacity.

The problem here is that the tradition from which Stitt was apparently speaking does not distinguish between nature and grace or the sacred and the secular. The Reformed, however, do distinguish. On this see the resources below.

2. God does not need his will to be “loosed.” This is the language and theology of the Pentecostal movement. It is not the language of Scripture nor of the great Christian tradition nor of the Reformed tradition. One suspects that Stitt is influenced by the theology of the “Seven Mountains Dominion Movement.” Joel McDurmon (himself a postmillennial, Christian Reconstructionist) gives a fair account of the movement here. This movement was founded by the church-growth leader, C. Peter Wagner (1930–2016). According to Wagner, Government is one of the seven (figurative) mountains over which Christians are called to take dominion in this life. The movement came to public awareness when Sarah Palin became the Republican nominee for Vice President in 2008.

The God of the Bible certainly hears and answers the prayers of Christians but he does not need to be “loosed.” His power is loosed all the time. The Lord is sovereign. He does whatever he wills, when he wills, as he wills. The good pleasure of God (beneplacitum) is one of the great recoveries of classic Reformed theology. This is not, however, a part of the Pentecostal tradition. Reformed Christians, going back to the early sixteenth-century (e.g., Guy de Bres’ critique of Thomas Müntzer et al.) rejected the Pentecostal theology, piety, and practice. Thus, it is surprising to see a Reformed minister seemingly endorsing it.

3. It is not as if everything that Stitt said is problematic, even if much of it is. It is true that humans can do nothing without God’s help. It is true that Christians battle spiritual principalities and powers (Col 1:16)—but it is also true, according to Paul in Colossians 2:15, that Christ, on the cross, has already “despoiled the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (ESV). That was true when Paul was stoned, beaten, forced to flee, jailed, and finally martyred. It is true that the Christians in Oklahoma should be a “light to our country and to the world” but it is not true that the State of Oklahoma, embodied in the governor, is called to be such. Oklahoma is not Christ’s church and Christ’s church is not Oklahoma. This seems self-evident but perhaps that truth needs to be spelled out. It is Christ’s church that is called to be a light to the world. The public education system is an unholy mess but it does need reformation and corruption needs to be rooted out. Most of all, however, Christians in Oklahoma ought to be withdrawing their children from public schools and founding and finding alternatives. I think that the governor and I might have different ideas of what it means for the Lord to have his way with the public school systems in Oklahoma.

This Is America

This is the United States of America. That means that Gov. Stitt can say whatever he will. He will be held to account by the voters. That is how our system of governance works. If they approve of his language, then they can re-elect him in four years for yet another term. If they do not, then they can elect someone else.

Still, in America, there are limits to what the governor in his office may say and do. It may be that most of the citizens of Oklahoma agree with him, but the government in the USA is not a pure democracy. We are a constitutional republic and our public officials are bound to uphold both the federal Constitution of the United States and their various state constitutions. Now, it is true that the preamble of the Oklahoma Constitution says, “Invoking the guidance of Almighty God, in order to secure and perpetuate the blessing of liberty; to secure just and rightful government; to promote our mutual welfare and happiness, we, the people of the State of Oklahoma, do ordain and establish this Constitution.” It is also true that there is no established church in the state of Oklahoma. Massachusetts disestablished the Congregationalists in 1833. In 1947, in Everson v Board of Education, Hugo Black wrote:

The “establishment of religion” clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another […] No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion […] In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect “a wall of separation between Church and State.”

Steven K. Green notes, however, that Black’s confidence about a “wall of separation” is not shared by all.

Criticism of the modern Court’s separationist approach has existed since the 1940s, but gained momentum as a result of the resurgence of conservatism during the 1980s and the appointment of constitutional conservatives to the Supreme Court. Today, it is not uncommon for religious, legal, and cultural conservatives to criticize the concept of church-state separation. Critics charge that a separationist perspective imposes a regime of secularism, one that is not neutral toward religious matters but that privatizes and marginalizes religion. Yale law professor Stephen L. Carter argued that the separationism promoted “a culture of disbelief,” while Catholic theologian Richard John Neuhaus claimed that it created a religiously “naked public square.” Such critics have argued that a minimalist view of church-state separation is more consistent with our history, the intent of the framers of the First Amendment, and constitutional doctrine.

Joseph Story argued that the intent of the framers “was not to countenance, much less to advance, Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity: but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects, and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment which should give to a hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government.”1

It is also true that under the rubric of separation some have sought to keep students from meeting for prayer voluntary in publicly-funded spaces and to keep football coaches from praying voluntarily at football games and the like. That rather thoughtless over-reaction to any religious expression by anyone in any public space is surely behind the the sort counter-reaction represented by Gov. Stitt’s claiming of Oklahoma for Jesus.

There is a way between Stitt and the ACLU. As Green observes, “While the debate continues over which model is more historically accurate, the idea of separation of church and state remains a core concept in the American experience.” Christians pay taxes and there is no good constitutional reason why Christians may not bring their faith and worldview to bear on their public policy positions. No one asks Muslims in America to check their faith at the door. Muslim members of congress are permitted to face Mecca to pray and to pray as often as they will. They dress in Muslim clothing, which has religious significance, and they are free to do so. They are not free, however, to use their office to advance Islamism in America. Should it have been the case that Oklahoma elected a Muslim governor last week, it would have been entirely inappropriate for him to claim Oklahoma for Islam. It would have been entirely inappropriate to ask, as governor, the crowd to recite the basic Muslim creed, “There is no God but Allah and Mohammad is is prophet.” That would have transgressed the natural limits of the governor’s office and it would have violated the secular purposes of the office.

As a matter of logical coherence, the same Christians who are defending Stitt’s claiming of Oklahoma for Jesus as legitimate would have been outraged had a Muslim claimed it for Allah or had a Romanist claimed it for the Papacy. When I put this to some of Stitt’s defenders, their response was, to summarize, “But Stitt was correct and the Muslim or a Romanist would be wrong.”

Were Stitt able to distinguish nature and grace and the secular sphere from the sacred, he would have prefaced his prayer by saying that though he is governor he is not speaking in his office. He would have done better to pray for wisdom to govern Oklahoma well for all the citizens  of the state. We want our Christian officials to pray and all Americans should want them to serve in light of their faith but to do so in a way that recognizes the limits imposed on them by their office. It may be that some Christians are unable or unwilling to abide by those limits. If so, they are free to speak up from outside political office. Once they are elected or appointed to office they ought to respect the natural limits imposed by their position.

Thus we get to the second sense of “this is America.” The response by Stitt’s defenders is one of the reasons we do not have a federally established church and why the state churches were disestablished by 1833. It is not far from “but Stitt was right and the others would be wrong” to open religious warfare in the streets. Anyone who doubts that is ignorant to the history of the conflict over Northern Ireland. Please watch the film Belfast and get back to me.2

One of the reasons that the American founders did not establish a church is because they wanted to move beyond the endless religious wars in Europe and the British Isles, and for the most part they succeeded. As I noted recently, the American Civil War was arguably a religious war, in some respects, but that war is an outlier. Americans are not at war with each other over religious differences, in large measure, because neither the federal government nor state governments seek to impose an established religion upon anyone.

Make no mistake about it—there is a growing number of Americans who have rejected the theory upon which the nation was founded. Among the Romanists they are called “integralists.” Among Protestants and evangelicals they are Dominionsts (whether Pentecost or Theonomic Reconstructionists, i.e., TheoRecons) or simply theocrats. Abraham Kuyper rejected the theocratic language of the original text of Belgic Confession art. 36 and his American students eventually came to agree with him. We have all revised Belgic art 36 but some want to interpret even the revised text of the confession in a theocratic way.

Theocracy is un-American. As I remind my students, Europe and the British Isles engaged in bloody religious wars for more than a century before the American founding. The earliest settlers arrived on these shores while the Thirty Years War was still ongoing. The Netherlands fought an Eighty-Years War against the Spanish. The English invaded Scotland and Ireland under Cromwell in the 17th century. The founders were well aware of that history. At least some of those who came to this land in the 17th century did so to get away from an imposed religion. When Frederick William III imposed a church union in 1817, both Lutherans and Reformed fled to the New World to get away from it. Pennsylvania had no established church and it became a haven for religious refugees. The Lutherans, Quakers, and Reformed all co-existed in Pennsylvania. In 1833, the the rest of the states agreed with the Pennsylvania settlement.

It is remarkable that so many seem to be so unaware of American history. Americans often assume that they are exempt from the same forces that afflicted the Old World. They are not. If we are not careful we might find ourselves with our own “troubles.” Should it come to that, it will be tragic and entirely avoidable.


1. Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (Boston: Hilliard, Gray, and Co., 1833), § 1877. Cited in Green, “Separation of Church and State” (linked above).

2. There is some foul language in the film.

©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.


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  1. Dr. Clark,
    As I scroll through various portions of the “reformed” twitterverse, I cannot avoid all of the “discussion” of Christian nationalism. I have not read the recent book from Canon Press (and have no intention of doing so for a variety of reasons), but one thought I have had is that people seem to have a difficult time distinguishing between Christian nationalism and a nation of Christians. The latter seems like a very good thing to strive for, to pray for, while the former would impose either a narrow form of Christianity on the nation (that many if not most Christians would find difficult to live under), or such a broad form that it would be mere morality and not Christianity at all. I have (I think) learned much from your writings on this topic. Thank you.
    John Ohlmann

    • John,
      I like what you said here:

      “people seem to have a difficult time distinguishing between Christian nationalism and a nation of Christians. The latter seems like a very good thing to strive for, to pray for,…”


  2. “Thus, it is surprising to see a Reformed minister seemingly endorsing it.”

    Does “name it and claim it” Pentecostalism now get a pass in Reformed circles if it fits into the TheoRecon ideals? I’m trying to imagine if the governor said something like this when it comes to sickness in his “territory.”

    Today, I claim for Christ every square inch of my people’s health in Oklahoma since sickness and all ills should not exist under Christ’s sovereign reign.

    Is the governor now a great physician? And how should the sick in Oklahoma respond? Is Christ not Lord even if human sickness exists? So if this kind of releasing Pentecostalism is ok when it’s comes to pagan territories, why not name and claim his dominion over every else that appears inconsistent at present that doesn’t achieve what the new heavens and earth will accomplish? But when it comes to theocratic dreams of a utopia “now” for reconstructionists, no one can question the bad theology behind such a “loosing” language of unclaimed territories for Christ? I would be dumbfounded if any form of name it and claim it theology were not corrected by a Reformed minister.

    • Name it, claim it is exactly right. How silly.
      Jesus doesn’t need some governor to claim anything for him.
      This is really appalling.
      Power-hungry, frustrated men who do not trust in Christ’s sovereign rule over everything.

  3. Yep! Play that Name It/Claim It Game…and DEFAME the sovereign Lord Of All. Perhaps Gov. Stitt was more than a little emotionally charged in the wake of his victory, thus undermining the integrity of his prayer’s theology (?). But if he doesn’t tender a post-prayer-meeting retraction… well, I’ll stay far away from his denomination. A fine “Desiring God” article — “Emotions Make Terrible Gods” – stated “When [emotions] flow — ungoverned by God’s Spirit and God’s Reality — they make us threats both to others and to ourselves.” Ya THINK?

  4. The theological problems in the prayer itself aside, if your position is that it is somehow wrong for sitting governors to seek to honor Christ overtly in how they govern and attempt to bring Christ’s commandments to bear in how they execute the duties of their office, this is a biblically indefensible position. Unless you can show from the word of God that it is better for civil authorities NOT to include homage to Christ as part of their official platforms?

    • Blake,

      Why should we set theological problems aside? If we’re going to have a de facto state-religion, then it seems to me that theology is of the essence of the question. The Governor seeks to “claim” Oklahoma for Christ because he is a member of the Assemblies of God. He’s a Pentecostal layman. The AoG are, in Reformation terms, fanatici or Schwärmerei (enthusiasts). That tradition has always spoken that way but it’s not a historic Christian way of speaking. It’s not a Biblical way of speaking.

      You assume that it’s his vocation to honor Christ by “claiming” the state, in his office as governor. Can you show me from the New Testament where this is commanded? Paul says nothing about it in Romans 13. He called Nero, a bloody murderer of Christians, God’s minister.

      As a Christian he ought to honor Christ and he honors Christ as governor by fulfilling his vocation. The problem here is that you are not distinguishing nature and grace and you don’t seem to have a Reformation doctrine of vocation. His vocation as governor is to uphold the laws of Oklahoma and to govern Oklahoma justly. His vocation as governor is not to claim it for Christ. Obviously, as a Christian (he wears two hats because he lives in two spheres simultaneously) he and we ought to pray that everyone in OK comes to new life and true faith in Christ. That would be a wonderful thing indeed but as governor his job is constrained by his office and the constitution of the state and the USA.

      You also seem to assuming that there is no movement in redemptive history from the Old Covenant to the New. The theocracy is expired. We confess that in the WCF. The Mosaic theocratic state was typological. It pointed to heaven and to Christ (so G. Vos). That function was fulfilled and abrogated on the cross. There are no more national covenants.

    • Dr. Clark,

      Not sure how to reply to you, so I clicked “reply” to myself.

      You seem very hung up on the imprecise or outright bad theological assumptions behind what the governor prayed. I have always been willing to overlook imprecision when I have seen brethren taking bold steps to honor the Lord Jesus Christ.

      Maybe to cut through some of the theological baggage arising from the governor’s affiliations, I could ask if you would be objecting if a Reformed governor prayed something like the petitions below?

      “Acknowledging ourselves and all mankind to be by nature under the dominion of sin and Satan, we pray, that the kingdom of sin and Satan may be destroyed, the gospel propagated throughout the world, the Jews called, the fullness of the Gentiles brought in; the church furnished with all gospel officers and ordinances, purged from corruption, countenanced and maintained by the civil magistrate; that the ordinances of Christ may be purely dispensed, and made effectual to the converting of those that are yet in their sins, and the confirming, comforting, and building up of those that are already converted: that Christ would rule in our hearts here, and hasten the time of his second coming, and our reigning with him forever: and that he would be pleased so to exercise the kingdom of his power in all the world, as may best conduce to these ends.”


      “So rule us by Thy Word and Spirit that more and more we submit to Thee. Preserve and increase Thy church. Destroy the works of the devil, every power that raises itself against Thee, and every conspiracy against Thy holy Word. Do all this until the fulness of Thy kingdom comes, wherein Thou shalt be all in all.”

      • Blake,

        If a magistrate is going to act like a minister, then I am going to treat him like a minister.

        I don’t critique the road repair program in Escondido because I have no formal calling or expertise on road repair. I have opinions but know actual knowledge. When a governor, speaking in his office (not merely as a citizen or as a Christian, but as governor) begins to make theological proclamations, even if in the form of a prayer, claiming a state for Christ, as governor, you bet I’m going to pay attention.

        I’m going to pay very close attention if the theocrats and theonomists get their way and seek to impose a religion on us. I keep warning them and anyone who will listen, we have a 2nd amendment for a reason. I don’t care if most in OK are Baptist or Pentecostal or what have you or if most in CA are Romanist or Wiccan. I’m not paying for it and I’ll not be made to submit to it. Ever.

        Had he simply prayed as a citizen, I wouldn’t have anything at stake in it. This is America. He can claim whatever he will. But he wasn’t content merely to pray as a citizen or as a mere Christian. He chose to invoke the authority of his office as governor. That’s changes everything.

        I affirm everything in Larger Catechism 191 (is there a reason you omitted the reference?) but any American will have difficulty with the verb “maintained” relative to the magistrate. If it means preserved, as we say in the revised version of Belgic 36, that’s fine. That’s the magistrate’s job, to preserve peace, including the existence of the visible church. If it means “established by the state and funded by tax dollars,” then it needs to be brought into conformity with the American revisions of the Confession of Faith (as in, e.g., the OPC and PCA).

        In Heidelberg 123 (again, why no reference), as in the WLC, we are praying that the Lord would do something. In that case there is no mention of the magistrate.

        Yes, of course it would have been better for him to pray an orthodox Christian prayer instead of a nutty, quasi-pagan, Pentecostal prayer but in any case, he had no business invoking his office as governor of the State of OK in that prayer.

        What happened to the doctrine of the spirituality of the church?

        When did Americans start to think that, just as Christendom fades away, that we should turn our back on our own tradition and go back (as it were) to Europe? This still puzzles me. How do y’all think this going to happen? You guys must be postmillennialists. You guys must not be listening the podcast series in which Hoekema, Riddlebarger, and now Venema (more to come) shred postmillennial exegesis and theology.

        Arguing with you guys reminds me very much of arguing with Marxists. The future is like drug to both and both groups are utopians looking for some earthly golden age.

  5. Sounds like “The Believer’s Authority” by Kenneth E. Hagin. Hagin died in 2003 but his Word of Faith influence is still felt in scores of churches.

    Binding, loosing, claiming, rebuking is standard fare for the Word of Faith movement. However, today it seems the practitioners are cutting corners. It used to be that like Abraham (God is no respecter of persons) that you could only claim the land over which your foot had tread. Also, if you were serious about breaking the devil’s power over area, you had to march around it for seven days and then “shout” the words of Faith. If God did it for Joshua, he’ll do it for you! Amen?

  6. Dr. Clark:

    Where this “believer’s authority,” Word of Faith stuff gets dicey is when they start speaking to mountains (see Mark 11:23). There are quite a few mountains in the Escondido area. I’d worry that someone’s Faith muscle was not sufficiently developed. Instead of the mountain landing in the sea, it might land on your house!

  7. No, government officials should not officially recognize Pentecostal Christianity, but they should recognize Biblical Christianity:

    “In Psalm 2 we have the Father’s solemn introduction of Christ, as his King whom he had ‘set upon his holy hill of Zion,’ unto the kings and rulers of the earth, with injunctions to them to serve him in this character. ‘Be wise now, therefore O ye kings; be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son lest he be angry, and ye perish, from the way,’ ver. 10-12. This is an exhortation and command to the rulers, to lay aside that enmity and opposition which they had managed against Christ and his kingdom, and to do homage and service unto him.

    “If the question be asked, ‘In what character are they to serve Christ?’ It may be answered by proposing another, ‘In what character did they oppose him? Was it not in their public character, as rulers?’ ‘The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us’ (vv 2-3). Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings…’ Shall we suppose, when they are reprehended in their public character for opposing Christ, that the exhortation to “serve” him respects merely their private character as individuals? Shall not the honour and homage to be paid to God’s own King, be as conspicuous and decided as the ignominy which was poured upon him was?”

    Thomas M’Crie, Statement of Difference between the Profession of the Reformed Church of Scotland and the Profession Contained in the New Testimony (etc), p. 134.

    Also, isn’t the demand for an explicit New Testament proof text for a particular doctrine something the Baptists do?

    • Caleb,

      1. This is the United States of America, not Scotland, where they had a national covenant with God (1638). We know this is so from the founding the Republic and from the behavior of the Covenanters when the came to this country. They did not participate in politics or even vote because the USA did not recognize “the crown rights of King Jesus.” They overturned that policy in 1969. Personally, I could see some value in the old RP position re jury service. I get called annually or nearly that. It would be very convenient to be able to say that my church forbids me to serve on a jury but I digress.

      2. The Scots were wrong to make a national covenant with God. There are and can be no national, covenanted people after the crucifixion of Jesus. The Israelite national covenant ended with the death of Jesus. The state of that people expired with the death of Jesus. The USA is not a new Israel. There are no new Israel’s. The national covenant with Israel was typological of heaven and the coming new covenant in Christ.

      3. Recognizing the movement of redemptive history is not Baptist. 😆 We don’t obey the ceremonial laws because they expired with Moses. We don’t obey the judicial laws (except insofar as they agree with natural law) because they expired with Moses.

      4. Your explanation of Psalm 2 is quite inadequate. We ought to read Psalm 2 both in light of the fuller revelation of the New Testament and the way the NT teaches us to read it. Christ is the Messiah of Psalm 2. He is ruling now. It is not referring to any earthly kings. This is the great mistake Symington makes in the 2nd half of his book. He reads Psalm 2 like a Judaizer, i.e., as if there were not New Testament. This is one of the great problems with the theocratic case generally and the theonomic case specifically. It’s built on a poor hermeneutical foundation.

      5. Jesus is the King. He has been, in his ascension, set on his holy hill, and one day (this is the part the theocrats miss), all the kings of the earth will acknowledge him—when he returns in power. The theocrats want that power manifested in the here and now and it’s never promised. It’s not even contemplated in the New Testament.

      6. Call me a Baptist all you will (my Baptist friends will love that since I’ve been harvesting Baptists for Reformed theology, piety, and practice for a long time now) but I’ll not apologize for recognize the unity of the covenant of grace and the progress of redemptive history. You should also call Hebrews Baptist for what he wrote in 8:13: “In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” He calls Moses “obsolete” (πεπαλαίωκεν). The whole theocratic case rests on Moses but, in 7:11–14, Hebrews says, the law changed because it rested on the priesthood and the priesthood changed. The Melchizedekian priesthood isn’t even in the law. It’s above the law. Jesus changed the priesthood and thus the law by the power of his resurrection, about which we read in the, wait for it, New Testament.

      7. Nowhere in the New Testament does anyone ask any magistrate to acknowledge the crown rights of King Jesus. No one asks Caesar to establish the church or defend orthodoxy. We didn’t need him to do it. We defended orthodoxy within the church. The only we ever asked from the magistrate was to be left alone (oh and please stop killing us for refusing to go along with Roman religion). We asked for a secular state. Bernard Lewis says that we invented the idea of the secular state.

      Now, with the formation of the American Republic, we finally have one and the theocrats want to throw it away.

  8. “It is the unanimous opinion of divines (says Walaeus, in a treatise against Erastian tenets), that the declaration of the Royal prophet (Psal. 2) is applicable to kings under the New Testament: ‘Now therefore, kings, be wise, etc.’ that is, yield obedience, and that not merely as other members of the church, but chiefly as kings and supreme judges. ‘Judges and rulers, AS SUCH, must kiss the Son’ (says Dr Owen, in his sermon preached before the Parliament of England), ‘and own his sceptre, and advance his ways. Some think, if you were well settled, you ought not, at rulers of the nation, to put forth your power for the interest of Christ. The good Lord keep your hearts from that apprehension!’

    “As this view of the words is agreeable to the concurrent judgment of the most judicious interpreters, so it is necessarily suggested by the scope of the whole psalm, which relates to the public state of the kingdom of Christ; by the characters addressed, their being in the same station with those mentioned in the beginning; and by the judgments threatened for non-compliance with the injunction. Indeed, the exposition which confines this, and similar texts, to the private character and conduct of rulers, would not be borne with, if applied unto any other persons in authority, as ministers, parents, etc.”

    Thomas M’Crie, Statement of Difference between the Profession of the Reformed Church of Scotland and the Profession Contained in the New Testimony (etc), p. 135.

    • Caleb,

      The whole Reformed tradition was theocratic (with the possible exception of Owen late in his career). They all wanted the state establishment of religion. They all also fought the Eighty Years War and the Thirty Years War.

      They were wrong. The Americans proved.

      Move to Europe if you want a state church. You might do a little reading first to find out how it all worked out. The state churches became Mosques and then they became computer cafes. Now they are discos.

  9. Dr Clark,

    Thank you for your responses. I’ll just respond to your “historical results” argument for now.

    How do you ensure that you are not equating correlation with causation? I.e., Establishment principle caused present day secularism in Europe? Or was it a position that merely preceded a moral and spiritual decline?

    Plus, couldn’t you disprove many doctrines in this way? The Church of Scotland secured its spiritual independence in 1875, with the abolishment of patronage. So its decline after that was not due to its connection with the state, but something else.

    After 1875, the Church of Scotland (at least officially) remained committed to many of the doctrines of the WCF. I guess those doctrines are wrong, because Scotland is so secular today?

    • Caleb,

      Show me anywhere in Europe or the British Isles where the state-church is flourishing. You can’t because there is not one. Not one.

      The state involvement in the Dutch Church nearly killed it. They favored the Remonstrants. They brought in organs. Abraham Kuyper was right. The state involvement in the church has been disastrous.

      What do I know? I only teach church history for a living but it seems to me that from the moment the state became “excessively entangled” (to use the language of the Lemon decision) the fortunes of the church were diminished. In many places, the magistrates supported error rather than orthodoxy. Magistrates are interested in power, not truth. It is short list of magistrates who put truth before power. Right now I’m hard pressed to think of one.

      Arguably, the state-church in Europe and the British Isles helped to foster the Enlightenment, which decimated the churches in those places. Meanwhile, the churches here were somewhat spared for a longer time. Even in the 19th century, De Tocqueville remarked on the health of the American churches versus the European and British churches. Being disestablished has been good for the churches.

      So, what will you do with those of us who resist (I’m thinking about 1776 just now) an established church?

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