"May the Force be with you" evokes the legends of Hollywood. It is a benediction which comes from a powerful work of fiction--and, therefore, an effectual commentary upon life and society. But whenever the force has been "with us" and used by the Church of the Lord Jesus, disastrous outcomes have poured forth. To the State--and to the State alone--God has granted the authority to deploy force. It bears the sword. The Church does not.
By the same token the State cannot perform the duties or take the prerogatives of the Church. If the State bears the sword, the Church has been granted the Keys of the eternal Kingdom of God. In bearing those Keys, the Church can both open the doors to allow penitent believers to enter the Kingdom, and it can shut them against the apostate and the reprobate [Matthew 16:19]. The Church, in bearing the Keys--with all the authority implicit therein--can shut out kings and great men from the Kingdom. The authority and function of the Church is eternal; the authority of earthly rulers and kings and the State is not.
Whenever the respective roles and responsibilities of Church and State have become intermingled and confused, the outcome has been disastrous for both Church and State.
In Europe's absolute monarchies, Protestant and Catholic churches paid for their official status by compromises that dimmed their spiritual attractiveness. As a result, the former papal states of central Italy have the lowest rate of church attendance in the country and have bred Benito Mussolini as well as the Italian Communist movement.The good news is that Providence has unfolded recent history so that state control of churches is now fading away in the West. Those churches that have embraced state control (state churches) are now empty and forsaken. Many have been transformed into mosques. The Church in those lands has been purified to the extent that it now understands better that its authority comes from its Head, Who sits in the heavens and rules the earth. Its authority is to bear witness, to open the Gates of Heaven to the penitent and the confessors of Christ, and to exclude those who are neither penitent, nor are repentant, nor have faith in Christ alone. This is the highest authority on the earth. The Church in those lands has come to understand that the force, state compulsion, must never again be allowed to be with us.
In Protestant Europe, the areas where the church was most closely associated with the state--Sweden and the Netherlands--have the lowest rates of religious observance. The pattern persists. In Germany, the Adenauer government's attempt to fuel the country's post-Nazi religious revival by financing churches and synagogues with a church tax on registered members seems to have discouraged membership. [Angelo M. Codevilla, The Character of Nations: How Politics Makes and Breaks Prosperity, Family, and Civility (New York: Basic Books, 1997), p. 178.]
In those lands which have adopted the "model" of a State Church, supported and ultimately ruled over by the State, the Gospel has been pretty much silenced. Herein is the curse of the State Church: the Lord Jesus Christ removes salvation from such lands. A deep spiritual darkness comes over the lives, hearts, minds, and souls of the population. The State, having exceeded its lawful God-given authority, comes under divine curse. Consequently, secular atheism goes from strength to strength. Therefore, Babylon and Egypt have begun sharpening swords, oiling the wheels of chariots, and making bombs. The Judge of Heaven brings upon such lands a people whose language and ways they have not known, but will soon know first hand.
As Tolkien would have put it, the darkness of Mordor now hangs over the city of Ecthelion. The hour grows late. Let those free churches which remain in the West lift up their voices with the clear, clarion call of the Gospel: "repent of your gross sin, and return to the King of heaven, Whom you have rejected and Whom you have slandered, before it is too late. The axe has already been laid to the root of your poisonous tree."