A Free Church In A Free State -- By: Mark T. Coppenger

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 11:4 (Winter 2007)
Article: A Free Church In A Free State
Author: Mark T. Coppenger

A Free Church In A Free State

Mark Coppenger

Mark Coppenger is Professor of Christian Apologetics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also serves as pastor of Evanston Baptist Church in Illinois, Baptist Collegiate Ministries director of Northwestern University, and managing editor of the online Kairos Journal. Dr. Coppenger has authored numerous articles and previously served as President of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal.”1 So says the Baptist Faith and Message, and demonstrably so it is the case. Concerning this basic statement of religious liberty, the BF&M speaks of the separation of church and state, the ordination of civil government, the use of spiritual means alone to advance the gospel, and of God’s unique role as “Lord of the conscience.”

In support of this position, the BF&M cites a range of texts: the creation of man (Gen 1:27; 2:7); private prayer (Matt 6:6–7); a conflict of masters (Matt 6:24); gaining the world at the loss of one’s soul (Matt 16:26); God’s and Caesar’s prerogatives (Matt 22:21); soul liberty in Christ (John 8:36); Peter and John’s “civil disobedience” in preaching (Acts 4:19–20); death to sinning (Rom 6:1–2); submission to the government (Rom 13:1–7); responsible freedom in Christ (Gal 5:1, 13); citizenship in heaven (Phil 3:20); prayer for rulers and civil concord (1 Tim 2:1–2); a single universal Lawgiver and Judge (Jas 4:12); exemplary submission to authorities (1 Pet 2:12–17); the right thing, whatever the cost (1 Pet 3:11–17); suffering for Christ (1 Pet 4:12–19).

The following article is meant to complement the BF&M’s statement on religious liberty, noting other verses and non-scriptural rationales for appreciating a “free church in a free state.” We b...

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