Article XVII: Religious Liberty
God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word or not contained in it. Church and state should be separate. The state owes to every church protection and full freedom in the pursuit of its spiritual ends. In providing for such freedom no ecclesiastical group or denomination should be favored by the state more than others. Civil government being ordained of God, it is the duty of Christians to render loyal obedience thereto in all things not contrary to the revealed will of God. The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work. The gospel of Christ contemplates spiritual means alone for the pursuit of its ends. The state has no right to impose penalties for religious opinions of any kind. The state has no right to impose taxes for the support of any form of religion. A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, and this implies the right of free and unhindered access to God on the part of all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power.
Unifying Principles of Article XVII
On this Independence Day holiday weekend, it is most appropriate that I post this particular article. History is replete with examples of the blunders and abuses that occur when religion and the state become too cozy. I think of the atrocities infamously known as the Crusades, Nazism, and various Islamic dictatorships. This is why I am glad that the Baptist Faith & Message contains Article XVII on Religious Liberty. Since God is neither a Democrat nor a Republican, but a Divine Independent, the church should be wary of promoting secular politics within its body. The BF & M leaves no stone unturned on this issue but makes it abundantly clear that, “Church and state should be separate.” Rather, the church should “render loyal obedience thereto [the state] in all things not contrary to the revealed will of God.” Therefore, all Southern Baptists can agree that our churches are to be religiously free from and yet conditionally accountable to the state.
For His Glory,