Community vs. Association

It is obvious that the whole question of the relations of education to State, Church, community and culture is inextricably  involved with fundamental issues which cannot be avoided however we may try to do so. Neither secularism nor Christianity necessarily involves persecution. But both of them can easily become intolerant, and whether they are tolerant or intolerant they are inevitably and in every field irreconcilable with one another. On the one hand we have the secular view that the State is the universal community and the Church is a limited association of groups of individuals for limited ends. On the other there is the Christian view that the Church is the universal community and that the State is a limited association for certain limited ends. The philosopher and the theologian may say that both are perfect societies with their own rights and their proper autonomous spheres of action. But this is only true juridicially speaking, not psychologically or morally. The Church is socially incomplete unless there is a Christian society as well as an ecclesiastical congregation, and the State is incomplete without some spiritual bond other than the law and the power of the sword. Ever since the loss of a living contact with the historic faith of Christendom modern society has been seeking to find such a bond, either in the democratic ideal of the natural society and its general will, or in the nationalist cult of a historic racial community, or in the Communist faith in the revolutionary mission of the proletariat. And in each case what we find is a substitute religion or counter-religion which transcends the juridicial limits of the political State and creates a kind of secular Church.

Christopher Dawson, The Crisis of Western Education, as quoted in The Great Tradition, ed. Richard M. Gamble.

So as 2Kers, we readily agree that “neither secularism nor Christianity necessarily involves persecution.” But is Gamble correct that antagonism between Church and State is as unavoidable as our fallenness?

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4 Responses to Community vs. Association

  1. sean says:

    I think to the extent to which the state fashions or promotes a counterfeit cult, it is obviously going to create an antagonism with the church. Just as to the extent that the church departs from it’s pilgrim motif and seeks to prematurely hasten it’s theocratic end it’s going to run afoul of the jurisdictional bounds and God-ordained legitimacy of the state. Additionally, there is hard-wired into the world since the fall an cultic antagonism between those of the kingdom of darkness and those of the kingdom of light.

    The real question in my mind is, is it possible for either side to resist the urge, the temptation to transcend it’s legitimate bounds. History seems to say you can’t just legislate and make it so. I think part of the fallenness and temporalness of this life means that every “system” seems to have it’s own sunset provision, or better yet lifespan. It may last a generation or less or more, but eventually the known seems to become the assumed then becomes unknown then lost and then is rediscovered or replaced.

  2. RubeRad says:

    History seems to say you can’t just legislate and make it so.

    I’m no historian, but has any other country tried church&state separation like the U.S.? Most of Europe still has state churches, right?

    I hear many pessimists nowadays saying that the U.S. is on its way out, to be superseded by China, like it’s going to happen in the next decade or something. I wonder how true that can be; but then again I harbor no illusions that the U.S. is somehow guaranteed eternal world dominance.

  3. sean says:

    I really don’t know. I thought France had basically institutionalized secularism and Turkey has played with state sanctioning of secularization in order stem the tide of Islamists. I guess my larger point is I think man is always trending toward either constantinianism or babel.

  4. Whiskeyjack says:

    I would add that both the state and the Church are presenting narratives of reality and in doing so are promoting distinct foundations of ethical action. For instance, the state may recognize gay marriage whereas the Church would not define it so. The antagonism resides where the two parties overlap in the moral/ethical realm rather than the civic. Just a thought.

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