Church-State and the Role of the Prophet

Several years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. James Wood at a reception when I was a PhD student at Baylor University. I am not sure if Wood is well-known in academia (though he should be), but at Baylor he is well respected. Wood was the first director of the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University (where I studied), guiding the Institute from 1958-1973 and then again from 1980-1995. A room in the Institute is named after him, and his picture is everywhere. My understanding from those who worked with him and under him is that he is a tireless defender of the separation of church and state and has dedicated his life to that work. As someone who also decided to take up that cause, imagine my excitement to finally meet this man about whom I had heard so much. At the time, Wood was 89 years old and in a wheelchair. However, it was clear, just from hearing him speak, that he was as sharp as when he was guiding the Institute.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Thank you Jason for this. One very troubling dimension of this phenomenon is that the Evangelical “wing” pursuing governmental influence is clearly after support for its own narrow agenda (not one that all evangelicals support by any means); viz., making almost all abortions a crime, reviving prayer and bible study (dogma not history or literature) in public schools, permitting Christian language and symbols to ascend in the public sphere as much as possible, and so on. Their refusal to entertain any other positions as biblically consistent should worry all of us, including Adventists. If you assume this is a “Christian” nation, that implies all others receive legitimacy at the indulgence of the “Christian” (as they define it) point of view and governmental structure.

This movement sees itself in a “priestly” function, ala the Hebrew Bible, in which it sees itself preserving the religious heritage of the American community. But every priestly focus, from time to time, needs a prophet to unmask its hypocrisy, arrogance and superficiality.


Thank you for this. I, too, have noticed a spinning polarity developing with regards to the meaning of the term religious liberty. It is at the heart of the SDA message and I appreciate that you pointed out that the prophetic mission requires separation of church and state. I hope people in our denomination can be pricked to attention and stimulated to think. We are drifting------

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Of course, Jason, I had to reply.

Here is the opening paragraphs to an article at Realclearpolitics, at the subsection, Realclearrelgion, by W. David Montgomery a retired teacher and consultant, also a catholic.

Date: April 25, 2018

“How can practicing Catholics and evangelical Protestants support a president as immoral as Donald Trump?”

This question assumes that it is morally or intellectually inconsistent to do so — an argument that has been advanced in publications as ideologically distant as the National Review and the Atlantic.

But are Christians who support Trump inconsistent or guilty of fundamental moral errors?

To many conservative Christians, such as myself, Donald Trump offered the hope of making right what they saw as going horribly wrong in our country. Alternative candidates stood for policies that would make things worse and were beset with deep character flaws of their own.

Candidate Trump was unabashedly pro-life and willing to defend religious freedom. He stood for a stronger national defense after eight years of appeasement and neglect. He understood and stated clearly that Western Civilization is under attack from Islamic militants. He supported Israel unreservedly. He saw how excessive taxation and regulation combined to give us the worst recovery from a recession on record.

That is not to say that all Trump supporters support all of Trump’s policies. I, for one, believe the president is wrong to promote the myth that immigration and imports kill jobs and hurt Americans. No candidate has a perfect policy platform.

To be sure, Trump’s rhetoric and personal behavior — his denunciations of Hispanics, tasteless remarks about women and sex, and marital infidelities — were negatives for many of us who voted for him. But, though sometimes excessive or offensive, his brash style was effective because it showed that he understood the feelings of those alienated from mainstream politics — those who felt left behind economically and angry at a federal government that was intruding into their lives, schools that were teaching their children things they did not believe, and celebrities, the media, and mainstream politicians who ridiculed them.

In short, despite efforts to caricature him, President Trump presents a complex picture of sound and unsound policies and personal virtues and vices. Conservatives Christians felt (and continue to feel) that, on balance, the sound policies outweigh the unsound, making the vices worth putting up with — especially given the alternatives. (end excerpt)

I am glad you have finally gotten beyond “How could Evangelicals Vote for Trump?” It was because Hillary called them deplorable, and would work against any views they had. Would you have voted for any candidate that called you and your ideas deplorable? Yet, I have seen so much condemnation for that vote. Such was ridiculous on the face of it.

Now, it is “How can Evangelicals Continue to Support Trump?” Always this judgment.

But this fellow answers calmly and cogently for conservative. Sorry I don’t know how to make a link to the whole article.

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I support your stance on President Trump. We look back with nostalgia on John Kennedy and to a much lesser degree Lyndon Johnson for his ‘great society’ and civil rights laws. Does this mean we condone the immorality of John Kennedy or the killing of Marilyn Monroe? It is said of Lyndon Johnson that he could swear better than a sailor and only signed the civil rights laws because it would get him votes.Yet, both accomplished some good things for this country. During the darwinian process of the republican primary season in 2016, It was often that i brought people’s attention to Daniel 2:21 (personally i prefer the kjv not the nkjv), and felt comfort. God utilizes human agents to accomplish His will and will use even faulty vessels to work His Plan.

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I agree with your sentiments. God uses those, whom Christians would consider less than ideal in the way they conduct their life, just as he uses His followers.

But, just an FYI about LBJ. He was a womanizer, as well as being very crude and bullying. Not a nice man…not to take away from what was accomplished.

All of our choices for President have feet of clay…


And aren’t we glad?

Luther gave us the Gospel, and virulent antisemitism. Yikes.

Henry VIII gave England Protestantism, and headless wives. Yikes.

2Co 4:7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

As a Christian, my concern about the Evangelicals supporting President Trump is that they refuse to condemn his conduct when it is offensive. Instead, they choose to remain silent or to excuse his immoral conduct in order to advance their agenda.

In the eyes of non-Christians, Christians have lost their right to be the moral voice in America. How sad. I am ashamed of the lack of moral leadership at the highest level of our government. This is a sad period in our history.


Evangelical Trump-supporting Christians have adopted the “ends justify the means” in their unconditional support of an immoral man as their leader. It is a new day in church-state joining hands to accomplish each of their agendas–much like the collaboration between the Roman government and the Jewish church leaders around 33 A.D.

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I do not recall the liberal establishment condemning Hillary when she went after the ladies that accused Bill.

The fellow I quoted stated that he did not like the various aspects and immoral behavior. I don’t either.

There is clearly not unconditional support. See the guy I quoted.

Romans and Sanhedrin? Harpa, come on.

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Does it matter that a president cannot be taken at his word?

Does it matter that we have a president that lacks credibility?

Does it matter that the president’s confirmable lies this week topped 3,000 since he entered office?

Could we believe him in a genuine crisis?

Falsehoods continue from the podium in the WH press room. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a young Christian woman from the Christian John Brown University, her own father a pastor, continues as mouthpiece for the most dishonest president in my lifetime.

Allen, you seem happy as long as your portfolio is growing and Wall Street is booming.

I can just hear you had Hillary been caught paying off a male porn star just before the election. (Or Obama).

Et al, Et al.

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It appears to me that the problem is not that individuals voted for the Donald Trump, or their belief in his ability to right wrongs that they perceived or believed to be installed or instituted by weak governance. It is the fetishness that many conservatives have with this President. They not only embrace him ideologically but make excuses for every disgustingly racist and immoral act that he repeatedly engages in, an almost daily practice. This cultishness of representatives of religion to political power is a breach of the separation of church and state as we have not seen in America in centuries.


I don’t see so much of this, but perhaps I am just not reading the right material. I get most of my news from RealClearPolitics, a site that gives both sides of most matters. Just not there.

Supporting him is no more a breach of the separation than supporting Kennedy was. Note that I have not defended any immoral acts. And also that the press will twist various statements to its ends. The “They are animals” comes to mind. Would you say M-13 do not act in animal fashion? And it was a reference to them, not all immigrants. The headlines of the NYT and others did not make that distinction. They thus loose credibility.

God choose His tools. Humans have nothing to say about it.

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Every President since Washington has lied. Half the voters distrust whoever was elected. But still the Republic lives. So I guess it does not matter.

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This is such a distortion of the facts surrounding this president that it does not deserve a comment.

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God chose Hitler? Stalin? Every president in our history? Where is human freedom and the power to make our own decisions? If this is true, why bother with any questioning?


Accusations and claims are not facts. Even Trump ignores that facts don’t make as much noise, but they are the only reality worth trusting. Not like one who denies the president was born in America, denies the “facts” that all three intelligence agencies agree that Russia hacked into our election in his favor, the fact that he has lied thousands of times already in his presidency, each one demonstrable. Please. I’m done with this.


Unfortunately James, your side is not so fact bound as you seem to believe. Obama claims he has never had scandals, but there were several. And to claim that “You could keep your doctor.”, when in fact he and his associates knew there would be great disruption, and even admitted that it was the ignorance and stupidity of the American people that would let them get away with it, does seem like a bit of a scandal to me. Much bigger than all the mistatements and lies of Trump. Certainly led to a lot more financial trouble.

I have not problem admitting Trump is all you say he is. He is also other good things as well.

But you are a true believer. No use arguing.