The church is not overstepping its bounds when Christians speak out against the failure of the state to protect the lives of the unborn. Today, R.C. Sproul reminds us that the God-ordained purpose for government is to defend and maintain human life—especially the most vulnerable among us.
When the church protests abortion on demand, what the church is doing is not asking the state to do the church’s work for the church. No one’s saying to the state, “Look, state, you have to preach the gospel; look, state, you have to administer the sacraments,” or any of that business. The church is not calling the state to be the church. The church is calling the state to be the state. Because according to the Word of God, the principal justification for the existence of any state in this world, its primary vocation, its primary task, its justification for being under God, is to protect, to maintain, and to nurture human life. And when the state is derelict in that responsibility, not only may the church exercise prophetic criticism, beloved, but the church must exercise prophetic criticism and call the state to be the state.
But you see, in our country, separation of church and state does not mean what it meant to Jefferson or to the founding fathers, who said that there are two spheres, two institutions, with distinctive job descriptions. The state has its task to perform. The church has its task to perform. The church is not given the sword. The church is not given the right to maintain a standing army. The church does not have the right to exact taxes from the citizens. And so on. Those responsibilities and rights adhere to the state. There is a division of labor. The church has its job to do. The state has its job to do. But the founders of this country recognized that both the church and the state were under God, and that the state is accountable to God for how it rules.
I spoke at the inauguration of the governor of Florida a few years ago. And I said in that address, I said: “What is happening here this day in Tallahassee is not unlike an ordination service in the church. Because you, Governor-Elect, are now being set apart by sacred vow to a function of ministry—not a ministry of the church but a ministry of the state. God calls state officials ministers whom He ordains and He appoints, whom He raises up, and whom He holds accountable for their work.”