I’ve been reading through Eric Metaxas’ biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It is truly excellent. At points it almost has a dreamlike quality. I highly recommend it.
What motivates this post is the point in the narrative where the German state church is confronted by the Aryan Paragraph designed to prohibit Jews (Christian Jews!) from membership in the German church. The point of the exercise was to sharpen the contrast between Jewishness and Germanness. Bonhoeffer and others, aghast at this turn of events, begin to develop an interest in the concept of a free church. The free church is the idea of the church as a regenerate body (voluntary) instead of a comprehensive one (coextensive with the political community).
This part of the book caught my interest because it perfectly captures the theme I’ve been pushing for a while now which is that Christians should aggressively push for separation of church and state while drawing a sharp line between separation and secularism. Separation means the state does not fund the church nor does it control the church. Separation does not mean the church refrains from engaging in advocacy or organization (political or otherwise). One of the primary features of separation is that it should free the church to criticize or applaud the state depending on the degree to which it pursues an unholy agenda or a more righteous one.
In other words, a regenerate church is not a private church. It is rather like a volunteer army. Members enlist for a mission to the world.