Can We Avoid the Same pitfalls of Church and State – That the church in the Middle Ages Could Not Avoid?

 Jesus said, “Give Caesar what is his, and give God what is his.”  Their mouths hung open, speechless (Mark 12:17)

The Middle Ages appears to be history’s warning to Christendom as to who is responsible for the governance of the Church and the governance of the state.[1] The middle ages initially demonstrated a dual or symbiotic system of leadership namely the “ecclesiastical hierarchy”  governed by the Pope and the system of the “imperium” or governance by political leaders. [2]  However, symbiosis requires both parties involved in the relationship to comprehends its role and works together to support each other.[3]  During the Middle Ages that was not the case because both systems of governance vied for control of the Church, social and political systems and attempted to do so through the symbiotic relationship between church and state.[4] What did the symbiotic relationship look like during the Middle Ages and do they present any pitfalls to modern day church-state relationships?

According to Noll, the intertwining of church and state during the Middle Ages proffered a religious culture that identified the need for saving grace and salvation for all human beings due to universal sin.[5] Nevertheless, the caveat for that saving grace required a definition of grace through the sacraments [formally known as Sacramental Theology] of the Catholic Church and the theological arm of the monasteries supported by the Catholic Church.[6] Furthermore, Noll declared that the relationship between the sacraments, the church, and the social structures of the Middle Ages placed the Church in a perceived role of governance in all spheres of life within the kingdom including the economy, education, the arts, and legal system.[7] Church governance did not have the type of lasting spiritual impact that it should have had on the culture.   Instead, the culture and the power associated with positional control changed the spiritual nature of the leadership of the church.

Noll posited that the rise of the authority of members of the “ecclesiastical  hierarchy” led religious leaders to behave in a manner that was unbecoming of church leaders.[8] Hendrik concurred by pointing out that  the period was far from idyllic and the Christianity of the Middle Ages was not at all Christian, society  transformed the Church instead of the Church impacting society.[9]  Today, it is highly likely that the church would not be able to avoid the pitfall of the societal transformation of the church instead of the church transforming the culture. Absolute power corrupted absolutely during the Middle Ages and it would do likewise in the Modern Church.  Throughout the centuries human nature has not changed.

Secondly, Noll spoke to the church’s perceptions of the role of political leaders during the Middle Ages. Noll painted a picture of the struggle between the Church and the body politic as a tug of war. Noll contended that the church attempted to regulate the “imperium” and placed it in a role of subservience to the Pope but expected the leaders to support the church with unfeigned loyalty.[10]  Therefore, the transference of this ideology identified the next pitfall of one-sided governance.  Attempting to bring the construct of the absolute power of the Church into the modern age would not engender the modern Church culture to political leaders.  The state i.e. the USA perceives itself as having complete governance over social, political, and legal decisions (See the Constitution).[11] Thirdly, the pitfall of schisms that arose during the Middle Ages cannot be avoided today because they currently exist within the church.[12]

In concluding, modern Christianity cannot ascertain that the blending of Church and state is a good idea. The intermingling of God’s Governance and the political system would damage the Church culture in the same manner that it damaged the Church culture of the Middle Ages.  The current political climate has demonstrated that Christians cannot allow themselves to be transformed by the “state”.  It has diluted the veracity of  the testimony of the Church and will eventually muzzle the Church. The tenability of a church-state governance is not possible for the United States of America – the Constitution forbids Congress from formulating any religious body that becomes a state religion (See Foot Note Reference 11). Leave the government to the system that humanity chose and leave the Church in God’s hands. (Jesus said, “Give Caesar what is his, and give God what is his.” Their mouths hung open, speechless.)

Notes


[1] God’s word clearly delineates the representative head of the Church. “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church.” (Ephesians 1:22 English Standard Version ESV).

[2] Encyclopedia Britannica Online, s.v. “Middle Ages,” 2016, Christendom, accessed September 14, 2016, https://www.britannica.com/event/Middle-Ages#ref908220.

[3] Webster’s Dictionary definition of symbiosis defines it as: “the living together in more or less intimate association or even close union of two dissimilar organisms (as in parasitism, mutualism, or commensalism) “Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, 2016, s.v. “symbiosis,” accessed September 14, 2016, http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/symbiosis.

[4] Adriaan Bredero Hendrik., Christendom and Christianity in the Middle Ages: The Relations between Religion, Church, and Society (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 1994), 12.

[5] Noll, Turning Points,152-153.

[6] Ibid., 154; Tony Lane, A Concise History of Christian Thought (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006), 88.

[7] Ibid., 155.

[8] Ibid., 159.

[9] Adriaan Bredero Hendrik., Christendom and Christianity in the Middle Ages: The Relations between Religion, Church, and Society (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 1994), xi–xii.

[10] Ibid., 157.

[11] “The Constitutional Convention of 1787: A Revolution in Government,” National Constitution Center, accessed September 14, 2016, http://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/white-pages/the-constitutional-convention-of-1787-a-revolution-in-government;  By, “Amendment I Freedom of Religion, Speech, Press, Assembly, and Petition,” National Constitution Center, First Amendment, accessed September 14, 2016, http://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/amendments/amendment-i.

[12] Lane, A Concise History, III. The Medieval West.

Bibliography
Bredero, Adriaan Hendrik. Christendom and Christianity in the Middle Ages: The Relations between Religion, Church, and Society. Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 1994.
By. “Amendment I Freedom of Religion, Speech, Press, Assembly, and Petition.” National Constitution Center. Accessed September 14, 2016. http://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/amendments/amendment-i.
“The Constitutional Convention of 1787: A Revolution in Government.” National Constitution Center. Accessed September 14, 2016. http://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/white-pages/the-constitutional-convention-of-1787-a-revolution-in-government.
Lane, Tony. A Concise History of Christian Thought. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006.
“Middle Ages.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 2016. Accessed September 14, 2016.https://www.britannica.com/event/Middle-Ages#ref908220.
Noll, Mark A. Turning Points, Decisive Moments in the History Christianity. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2012.
Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. 2016. Accessed September 14, 2016.http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/symbiosis.
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

You’re Not the Only One

is a ministry of
Four Fast Friends LLC

You're Not the Only One
PO Box 968
Hardeeville SC 29927

Support this ministry!

%d bloggers like this: