And what a great and wonderful providence of God that I should read these words two days after hearing my pastor’s story.
An excerpt from No Other Standard:
“…to say that equal civil protection cannot and should not be afforded without qualification to any and all “religious” commitments is not at all to imply that the civil magistrate has the right to take unto himself ecclesiastical authority. Just as surely as the Old Testament forbade kings to arrogate priestly functions to themselves (e.g., the case of Uzziah in 2 Chron. 26), the New Testament separates “the keys” of the kingdom from the “sword” which the state bears (cf Matt. 16:19; Rom. 13:4; 2 Cor. 10:4). There is no Biblical warrant for thinking that the civil magistrate has either the competence or the divinely given authority to settle all religious matters of doctrine.
The law of God does not, contrary to popular misconception, allow the civil courts to judge heretics or resolve theological disputes between different schools of Christian thought. Thus theonomists readily and fervently insist upon the “pluralist” [GD: “pluralism” among Christian denominations] view of the state found in our best Reformed heritage and even the U.S. Constitution. Lutherans should not use civil power to persecute Presbyterians (and vice versa, etc.), and the federal government should not establish Presbyterianism (or Anglicanism, etc.) as the state church.
There is indeed a line to be drawn beyond which the civil magistrate is not to step in matters of faith and worship. But the theonomist would argue that this line is to be drawn by the exegesis of God’s written word—not by some authority higher than the Bible, nor by the equivocal slogan of “equal protection for all,” nor by some individual’s interpretation of the lowest common denominator in religion. Religious liberty is too precious a commodity to be grounded upon anything other than God’s authority, expressed in His infallible and unchanging, written word. It must be understood and applied in theonomic fashion.”
Bahnsen, No Other Standard, pdf version, Institute for Christian Economics, 1991, p. 188