Church-State relation is an unsolved problem

How I love the expression “unsolved problem”. It probably comes from writing scientific papers and proposals–scientists are always happy when they can point to an “unsolved problem” or an “unanswered question” to justify their existence. It opposes the Whig historical view that there is one true way to organize society, that this way is obvious, and that the past is a realm of dark ignorance and wickedness because they didn’t see it that way. “Unsolved problem” comes off as a traditionalist position compared to a Whig-progressive consensus, not because it regards past ways as ideal, but because it puts present and past ways on a level, each incompletely satisfactory. “Unsolved problem” raises the possibility that an unknown satisfactory solution exists, but it doesn’t assert such–perhaps there is no solution, only trade-offs between incompatible goods.

According to Whig history, millennia of squabbles between Church and State were stupid and pointless because they didn’t adopt the obvious and perfect progressive solution of “separation of Church and State” (SCS), presumably because prelates were uniquely and wickedly “power-hungry”. However, no serious Christian can be satisfied with SCS, because it just means that a rival religion–some variant of atheism–establishes itself as the de facto established faith. We have seen many times that SCS is no protection against religious persecution.

So what about those millennia of squabbles? Making the Pope a subject of the Emperor dangerously subjugates the spiritual to the temporal power. Giving the Pope his own temporal domains dangerously entangles him in Italian and European politics. Erastianism, Gallicanism, ultramontanism, bishop-princes, concordats,… everything that’s been tried has advantages and dangers. Our ancestors were neither stupid nor evil. It’s a difficult and unsolved problem!

5 Responses

  1. The problem cannot be solved by A System – because all Systems must be implemented by Men. Some Systems actively encourage worse Men and the corruption of Men (as now) – others less so. But bad Men – such as are now everywhere prevalent, and increasing – will use any System as a tool for evil. Hence all actual and possible Systems here-and-now are tools for evil.

  2. The phrase “unsolved problem” always carries the unspoken codicil “until now.” The honest phrase is “insoluble problem.”

  3. Of course, ‘separation of church and state’ is one of those terms liberals love that makes no sense when one actually stops to think about it. According to the Whig narrative, separation of church and state is what ended the perpetual conflict between the two.

    How can that be though? Separating the two is exactly what you would do if you wanted conflict: you have to have distinct centers of power for there to be conflict. If you don’t want conflict, you either unify them, as some of the ancient pagan societies did, or you subordinate one to the other and entirely disempower it (the modern solution).

    The reason for the famous conflicts between Church and State in the Middle Ages is precisely because they not only acknowledged the principle of separation of Church and State, but they actually practiced it.

  4. Eastern Orthodox and the Byzantine Empire were arguably the closest to the answer. Patriarch and Emperor, neither absolute over the other, each to serve God in their own way.

  5. Separation of church and state also implies that the state should not control the churches. A problem that exists not only in the modern age, but also since the 16th century. There’s also the question of “progressive ideology” which is now. essentially, the state religion.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: