jeudi, juin 28, 2012

Calvinism, the State, and Freedom of Conscience

Calvinism, the State, and Freedom of Conscience (1)

(Excerpt from "The Basic Ideas of Calvinism" by H. Henry Meeter, Th.D., Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan,1973) -

"A privilege of a very different order which the State must guarantee the citizen relates to his spiritual existence. Just as the State must provide conditions which will tend to promote his material well-being and enable him to earn a decent living, so the State must promote his spiritual freedom - freedom for man's soul. This will include free speech, a free press, freedom of religion, in a word, freedom of conscience. This is a cause of which the historic Calvinist is an ardent defender. Calvinists in history have not always consistently practised this principle in granting liberty of conscience to others; nevertheless, freedom of conscience follows directly from the principles of Calvinism and must strenuously be maintained as a right which the State must grant its citizens. Liberty of conscience may be defined as the boundary line of the State's authority in the realm of the spirit. 
(p 149)

"Freedom of conscience and, hence, freedom of religion should be guaranteed to all citizens, also to unbelievers. No one should be molested by the State because of his religious convictions unless the authority of the State in its own proper sphere is transgressed. Calvinism, from the time of Calvin on, has made much of the freedom of conscience. Calvin also fought a battle for years at Geneva for the complete separation of Church and State, though he never achieved his goal. This in time would have led to freedom of religion as its logical outcome. It is true, later Calvinists, in Holland, Scotland, and the New England States reverted to a form of State-church. Their action might conceivably be defended on the practical ground that that the Protestant religion would have gone down in defeat in those turbulent days of the religious wars had not the States taken upon themselves the defense of the Protestant faith. But the establishment of a State-church was, nevertheless, a departure from Calvinism as propounded by Calvin. Roman Catholics, Lutherans and Arminians defended the State-church idea as a matter of principle. Not so the Calvinists. Philip Schaff states that in that darkest chapter of Church history the Calvinists were less intolerant than men of other faiths; but they were all intolerant. It is true that freedom of conscience as it manifested itself in the right of free speech was granted to Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and even men of antithetical philosophical opinions as Spinoza in Holland, a privilege which was denied in countries dominated by other faiths; but the right to gather for religious worship and the right of franchise was at times denied by the Calvinists. However, we can thankfully record that it is a principle inherent in Calvinism and today commonly applied, that all churches and all religious societies, and all citizens, irrespective of their views regarding eternal matters, shall be treated on a basis of equality by the State. Religious toleration granted to other than State churches, as exemplified in the constitutions of Italy, Denmark, and the Scandinavian countries is not identical with complete religious liberty. The Calvinist stands for complete religious liberty to all and religious equality before the State." 

Calvinism, the State, and Freedom of Conscience (2)

(Excerpt from "An Introduction to Christian Philosophy" by JM Spier, Craig Press, Nutley, New Jersey, 1976. Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Company) -

     If the Netherlands decided as a state to force all citizens to become protestants, then all protestants should abhor such an action, as it would exceed the authority that God has given to the state....
     The destination-function of the State is juridical. A State is qualified as a juridical relationship. Law (justice) and power are the two roles in the structure of the State...
     Dooyeweerd defines the juridical function of the state as follows: The internal law of the state is the law which a government enforces in a particular territory; it is the law of a sovereign state. And it is based on the organization of the armed forces governing a territory...
     The nuclear moment of the juridical aspect is judgment, the well-balanced harmonization of a multiplicity of interests. The public law of a state ought to be the well-balanced harmonization of all the interests within a particular territory. No single interest within the borders of a state can be ignored.
     The legal community of the state has its own universality, a universal relationship of law, which in a certain sense encompasses all other societal relationships. We are not making any concessions to universalism, as the state only spans other relationships in public law. Other relationships are not merely subordinate parts of the state. The state does not have a voice in the internal law of the family, school, church, science, or industry. Other relationships are entitled to the protection of the state. The state is called to protect their interests against any encroachment, thus enabling them to develop in peace (cf. 1 Tim 2:2 "that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and gravity")...
     Many deny the possibility of a Christian state, either because
1. they think that faith is the exclusive property of the church, as an institution, or
2. they are convinced that a Christian state would only be possible if all its citizens were Christians and this ideal can never be realized.
3. Others accept the idea of a Christian state, and see its possibility in a specific relation in which the state supports a church or an ecclesiastical confession. The Roman Catholic view, for example, believes that in spiritual matters the State must accept the pronouncements of the church and exercise its authority to promote the church's welfare.
     This same sentiment is expressed by those who would have the state accept a certain confession to which its office-bearers must subscribe.
     None of these solutions are satisfactory. The first denies that the structure of the state is expressed in the sphere of faith, thus shutting off its individuality in the ethical sphere. The second also believes that the state lacks an internal pistical [faith] function but it seeks to compensate for this by externally binding the state to the church. This view commits the error of denying a real Christian character to the state as such.
     Now we do not deny that the state can sustain external ties with churches within its territory, but such bands must not infringe upon the sovereignty of the church or of the state.
     Every created thing, including the state, functions in all modalities. The structure of the state has indeed a typical pistical function too. Not only the Christian state, but the non-Christian as well, functions in the modality of faith. Unbelief does not signify a lack of a function of faith. Unbelief is only the wrong employment of faith. It seeks its final certainty in a lie rather than in the truth. Every state functions in the modality of faith and is either Christian or non-Christian.
     The destination-function of the state is juridical and not pistical. Even in a land in which there was an ideal Christian state, the state would not be identical with the church. The church is a pistical and the state is a juridical relationship....
     Dooyeweerd calls Divine Revelation in the state the political norm of faith, because each state is subject to it, and ought to confess the sovereignty of God. The state ought to make this confession, but in a different way from the church...The confession of the state ought to be a political confession. No matter what the personal faith of its members is, a Christian state ought publicly to confess - for example in the opening words of laws or in proclamations or on solemn occasions - the sovereignty of God and recognize Christ as the Ruler of the kings of the earth.
     A neutral state is a fiction. A non-Christian state also makes a confession. But it closes its eyes to the light of the Word of God and no longer correctly understands the general revelation of God in the life of the state. Consequently, the political norm of faith, the political principle of revelation forces the people and their rulers to bow before the idols of law and power. The life of the state is pushed in an apostate direction, and a political confession is made in the sovereignty of the people, or in the omnipotence of the state, or in what other gods there may be....
     Finally we must note two things. First, a Christian state is only possible if the idea of it is rooted in public opinion.To form a basis of power for a government which can actualize Christian political principles, the idea of a Christian state must be deeply embedded in the life of the people.
Secondly, it is correct to say that the state arises from common grace, since it exists because of sin, and since even an apostate state displays the structure of a state in every respect. But common grace, through which God maintains the temporal world order and checks the power of sin, is rooted in special grace, rooted in Him who gives life to the world. Life may never be divided into two spheres. Both common and special grace permeate all of life, which is renewed and maintained by Christ." (pp 220-228)