Government-endorsed religion: Islam most common, Christianity most preferred

A Pew Research Center study of government-endorsed and government-preferred religions has Islam and Christianity at the top.  Islam is the most common official government-endorsed religion, currently in 27 countries.  However, Christianity is the religion most favored by governments, with 13 countries where Christianity is the official government-endorsed religion and 28  countries where it is unofficially favored.  government-endorsed religion = religion and politicsThe question is what impact, if any, does this relationship have on the religions?  And, if the religion changes because it’s government-endorsed, what impact does that have on the beliefs of the people following it?  Most importantly, what happens as far as salvation?  Does salvation even exist in a government-endorsed religion, or has it been removed entirely?

Why should we worry about government and religion 

This is part of an ongoing series about Religion and Government.  It’s often said that religion and politics are strange bedfellows.  Politics always seems a bid strange.  Too much power, too much money, and too much corruption.

Pr 11:7 When a wicked man dies, his hope perishes;
all he expected from his power comes to nothing.

Few, if any, “good” people get into politics these days.  At least it feels that way.  All the stuff that happens to people in politics is more than enough to make someone who’s not power-hungry say it’s not worth it.

Pr 13:11 Dishonest money dwindles away,
but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.

Another proverb along the same lines as the first, with too many politicians out to get what they can wile in office.  

Pr 6:12 A scoundrel and villain,
who goes about with a corrupt mouth,

Pr 6:13 who winks with his eye,
signals with his feet
and motions with his fingers,

Pr 6:14 who plots evil with deceit in his heart—
he always stirs up dissension.

And this last one sums it all up.  There’s plenty of reason to be concerned about governmental influence over religion.  The same is true for religion influencing government.

Government-Endorsed Religion

The Pew study includes this statement about government-endorsed religion.

In some cases, state religions have roles that are largely ceremonial. But often the distinction comes with tangible advantages in terms of legal or tax status, ownership of real estate or other property, and access to financial support from the state. In addition, countries with state-endorsed (or “established”) faiths tend to more severely regulate religious practice, including placing restrictions or bans on minority religious groups.

And here we go.  Money is involved.  Religious practices are regulated.  Bans are placed on minority religious groups.  Government-Endorsed Religion is religion that’s not true to itself.  Those who lead the people following that government-supported / government-endorsed religion are not leading them correctly.

lost religion

The Old Testament records this series of events related to when the Book of The Law was found.  Since the Book of The Law (God’s Law) was found, we also know that it was previously lost.

The Book of the Law Found

2Ki 22:1 Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. His mother’s name was Jedidah daughter of Adaiah; she was from Bozkath. 2 He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.

2Ki 22:3 In the eighteenth year of his reign, King Josiah sent the secretary, Shaphan son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, to the temple of the LORD. He said: 4 “Go up to Hilkiah the high priest and have him get ready the money that has been brought into the temple of the LORD, which the doorkeepers have collected from the people. 5 Have them entrust it to the men appointed to supervise the work on the temple. And have these men pay the workers who repair the temple of the LORD— 6 the carpenters, the builders and the masons. Also have them purchase timber and dressed stone to repair the temple. 7 But they need not account for the money entrusted to them, because they are acting faithfully.”

2Ki 22:8 Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the LORD.” He gave it to Shaphan, who read it. 9 Then Shaphan the secretary went to the king and reported to him: “Your officials have paid out the money that was in the temple of the LORD and have entrusted it to the workers and supervisors at the temple.” 10 Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king.

2Ki 22:11 When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes. 12 He gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Acbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: 13 “Go and inquire of the LORD for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the LORD’S anger that burns against us because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.”

what does this have to do with government-endorsed religion?

There’s a glaring issue in those last few paragraphs.  Did you notice?  Here’s a couple of sentences to bring it out.

Start with this verse.

2 He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.

Next compare it to this verse.

2Ki 22:11 When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes.

That sounds very odd.  Josiah did the right things.  And yet Josiah tore his robes after reading the Book of The Law.  How can that be?  Tearing his clothes was a sign of great distress.  If Josiah was doing all the right things, why would he be so distressed after reading the Book of The Law?

The Book of the Law Found (continued)

2Ki 22:14 Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Acbor, Shaphan and Asaiah went to speak to the prophetess Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem, in the Second District.

2Ki 22:15 She said to them, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Tell the man who sent you to me, 16 ‘This is what the LORD says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people, according to everything written in the book the king of Judah has read. 17 Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and provoked me to anger by all the idols their hands have made, my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched.’ 18 Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the LORD, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard: 19 Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people, that they would become accursed and laid waste, and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the LORD. 20 Therefore I will gather you to your fathers, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place.’ ”
So they took her answer back to the king.

Did you see the problem?

the results

First we see these verses.

2Ki 22:15 She said to them, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Tell the man who sent you to me, 16 ‘This is what the LORD says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people, according to everything written in the book the king of Judah has read. 17 Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and provoked me to anger by all the idols their hands have made, my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched.’

And then we read these verses.

18 Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the LORD, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard: 19 Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people, that they would become accursed and laid waste, and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the LORD. 20 Therefore I will gather you to your fathers, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place.’ ”

Some would be happy about the second set of verses.  Josiah is going to be OK.  Although Josiah had been king for 18 years, he’s going to be saved from the disaster the Lord is about to bring to the people.

But the people who had been worshiping other Gods are in for big trouble.

 A question of religion and government: why was Josiah saved, but not the people?

So why was Josiah spared from the disaster, but not the people he was leading as their king?  At first glance, it appears Josiah should also be culpable.  After all Josiah was their king.  Josiah was the leader of the government.  As such he was the one in charge of the “government-endorsed” religion.  

Think back to the second verse of the passage we’re looking at.

2 He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.

If David was Josiah’s father, when was there time for the people to go bad in between him and David?

Well, that’s an issue with the way the Hebrew people recorded lineage.  It’s not always completely accurate.  In this case, here’s what happened.

He was left parentless at eight years of age. Josiah had a sorrowful childhood, and as a king at eight years of age, he was introduced to scenes of violence, outrage and civil war. But God was more than a Father to this fatherless boy.

He had a good and darling mother. We know nothing about the mother who undertook Josiah’s training apart from her name, Jedidah, meaning, “God’s darling,” which she was not called for nought. She sought to make her son what she was called, “God’s darling,” and her labor had its sweet reward.

He sought after God at the age of sixteen. After sixteen years in the nursing hands of his good mother, Josiah turned from the ways of his father Amon and his grandfather Manasseh, and took his nobler and remoter ancestor, David, as his model. In life’s fair morning, Josiah set his heart to seek the Lord.  1)ALL THE MEN OF THE BIBLE; A Portrait Gallery and Reference Library of More Than 3000 Biblical Characters; Herbert Lockyer, D.D., D.Litt.; Zondervan Publishing House; Grand Rapids, Michigan; A Division of HarperCollins Publishers

Now we have a better picture.  While (hopefully) Christians are aware that David wasn’t Josiah’s father, that’s not actually the case.  Too many people reading this passage will just assume David was Josiah’s father.  They would probably also know that King David was good.  And therefore they’d think Josiah was the one who led the people astray. 

He purged Judah and Jerusalem when he was twenty. Youth did not deter Josiah from necessary reformation. Out went all forms of idolatry. Borne along by a noble rage, he swept away the groves full of abominations. Would that the fervent zeal and righteous enthusiasm of this earnest, passionate young man might characterize more young men today!

He rebuilt the Temple when he was twenty-six. This consecrated young man saw that it was of no use destroying idols unless he had something better to replace them. Thus when his destroying fever had spent its force, Josiah began to rebuild and repair the house of God. In turning over the rubbish of the Temple, the king made a strange discovery. He came across a buried and forgotten copy of the Law, the reading of which strangely affected him. Profoundly humbled, he laid the axe to his own corruptions, and went forward to grow in wisdom and godliness.

Remember, Josiah became king at age eight.  He was just a boy.  After being taught by his mother, Josiah began to clean things up when he was twenty years old.  The Book of The Law was found when Josiah was twenty-six.  So we see Josiah began the clean-up years before the Book of The Law was found.

Earlier we saw it was easy to blame Josiah for the predicament the people were in.  As we know now, that’s totally wrong.

government-endorsed religion: the real problem

If Josiah wasn’t the problem then who was?  Let’s move backwards in 2 Kings and see what else happened.

Manasseh King of Judah

2Ki 21:1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. 2 He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, following the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites.

This was Josiah’s grandfather.

The Man Whose Policy Was Wrong

Manasseh, the prodigal king of the Old Testament, was overwhelmed by Assyrian forces and in the twenty-third year of his reign was taken as a prisoner to Babylon where he lingered for twelve years. During these years he turned to God and was restored to freedom and his kingdom. For the next twenty years left to him, he sought to undo the wrong of the past. His long reign of fifty-five years, the longest in Jewish history, closed not inauspiciously. He died a penitent, and left a son who followed his father in his sins but not in his repentance.

Gathering together what we can of Manasseh’s life, it would seem that he was a man of policy:

  • His policy of idolatry. How he hated the first two commandments of Sinai, and reversed the reforms of his father! How exceedingly bold he was in his idolatry!
  • His policy of immorality. Idolatry and immorality go together, thus in rejecting God there came the worship of the Syrian Venus. This action let loose a flood of iniquity over the land of Judah.
  • His policy of persecution. Manasseh allowed nothing to stand in the way of license and open evil. Martyrdom became the cost of service. Idolatry was set up under the pain of death.
  • His policy of destruction. As far as he could, Manasseh destroyed the Word of God. Every copy found was consigned to the flames. God’s truth testified too plainly against the sins of king and people. So complete was this destruction of the Word of God that when Josiah, Manasseh’s grandson, came to the throne, a copy of it was found in the Temple.

But Manasseh’s eyes were opened to his sinful condition and he sobbed out the misery of his helpless and craven soul. The occasion of his repentance was affliction. In the prison-house of Babylon he prayed. As to the character of his repentance, he besought the Lord and humbled himself before the God of his fathers and prayed unto Him. Penniless and penitent, his cry for mercy came from a broken heart, and God graciously received this prodigal king. Alas, however, he stopped short of being out-and-out for God! He allowed the high places of idolatry to remain. It will not be possible to doubt God’s grace in heaven in the ages to come if we can but catch a glimpse of Manasseh—godly-reared, apostate, idolatrous, devilish, stricken, humbled, repentant Manasseh!

Wow.  Now we know how the Book of The Law was lost.  And we see a whole lot of other things.  This was one bad king who really led his people astray.  

Like Josiah, Manasseh began a turn-around.  Unlike Josiah, Manasseh didn’t go all the way.

Amon King of Judah

2Ki 21:19 Amon was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem two years. His mother’s name was Meshullemeth daughter of Haruz; she was from Jotbah. 20 He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, as his father Manasseh had done. 21 He walked in all the ways of his father; he worshiped the idols his father had worshiped, and bowed down to them. 22 He forsook the LORD, the God of his fathers, and did not walk in the way of the LORD.

2Ki 21:23 Amon’s officials conspired against him and assassinated the king in his palace. 24 Then the people of the land killed all who had plotted against King Amon, and they made Josiah his son king in his place.

Amon was going from bad to worse.  

In a very real sense, Amon, Manasseh, and Josiah  are the embodiment of the problem with government-endorsed religion.  Yes – even Josiah.  Even though Josiah was spared, the people were not.  That problem will be addressed next.

What happens with government-endorsed religion?

One of the sub-headings in the Pew article is this.

Having an official religion often translates to practical benefits

The quote below is from way back at the top of the page:

It’s often said that religion and politics are strange bedfellows.  Politics always seems a bid strange.  Too much power, too much money, and too much corruption.

“Practical benefits” is a nice way of saying that power, money and corruption are present.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s government-endorsed religion or religion-endorsed government.  Either way, each scratches the other’s back.  And either way, each is willing to give up something in order to get a benefit from the other.

Why do I say it doesn’t matter whether it’s government-endorsed religion or religion-endorsed government?  Because both exist at the same time.  Government’s trade favors for religious endorsements.  Religions cave in on some beliefs in order to get favorable treatment by governments.

Christianity as a government-endorsed religion

Christianity had no such connections at it’s very beginning.  In fact, the Roman government was killing Christians,  But then there was the “conversion” of Constantine, Emperor of Rome.  I put conversion in quotes because there are many questions about whether or not it really happened.  That is, whether it was really due to a vision from God.  It’s possible to find things on both sides of that argument.  After all my research, I have to believe it wasn’t real – that it wasn’t from God.  It’s more like something that happened with Joseph (of the coat of many colors) and his brothers in Genesis.

Ge 50:19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

The key for this article is this: You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done.  Please see Joseph – “The sun, moon and eleven stars bowed down to me” for a detailed look at this passage, especially as it relates to just how much good God can do from one little plan from us.

At any rate, here’s why I don’t believe the vision was real.

His conversion happened during a war against his brother-in-law and co-emperor, Maxentius. According to the historian Eusebius (see Eusebius Pamphilus ), bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, before the crucial battle of Milvian Bridge, Constantine was convinced that he needed divine assistance. While he was praying for such assistance, God sent him a vision of a cross of light at midday, bearing the inscription “in hoc signo vinces ” (“in this sign you will be victorious”). That night he had a dream that reaffirmed his earlier vision. God told him to use the sign he had been given as a safeguard in all of his battles. Thus, Constantine converted to Christianity and ordered the symbol of his Savior’s name (the intersection of the Greek letter chi and rho) to represent his army. Constantine was victorious in the battle of the Milvian Bridge, and he continued to wear the symbol for Christ against every hostile power he faced.  2)http://www.thenagain.info/WebChron/EastEurope/ConstantineConverts.html – see sources from this page.

Notice the sentence: God told him to use the sign he had been given as a safeguard in all of his battles. 

This is more than strange.  Since Jesus Himself refused to have anything to do with overthrowing the Roman government, it’s very difficult to reconcile His life with any claim of that dream being from God.  And it’s not just Jesus.  Check out this account of Stephen from Acts.

The Stoning of Stephen

Ac 7:54 When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

Ac 7:57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.

Ac 7:59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

This event just doesn’t track with Constantine’s alleged dream from God.

But – that doesn’t mean God cannot make something good come from it.

The problem of government-endorsed religion

The big problem?  That would be Satan.  See the following from The Messianic Bible Study Collection.  I’ve included the entire quote for context, but pay particular attention to items two and three.

E. Satan’s Work in Relationship to the Gentile Nations

The fifth category of the work of Satan is his work among the Gentile nations. Here, six things can be mentioned.

1. Satan Causes the Fall of Nations

The first work that Satan does among the nations is that he is the one who lays low the nations (Is. 14:12). Sometimes nations fall from great power to become third-, fourth-, or fifth-rate powers because of the work of Satan who controls the kingdoms of this world.

2. Satan Deceives the Nations

A second work that Satan does among the nations is that he deceives the nations (Rev. 12:9; 20:3).

3. Satan Influences the Nations

The third work is that Satan has influence over human governments among the Gentile nations (Dan. 10:13, 20; Mat. 4:8–9; Eph. 6:12).

4. Satan Authorizes the Antichrist

The fourth work among the nations is that it is Satan who will give his authority over the kingdoms of the world to the Antichrist. At one time, he offered this authority to Jesus if He would worship Satan only once, but Jesus rejected the offer. Satan will make the offer again, this time to the Antichrist who will accept it (Rev. 13:2, 4).

5. Satan Gathers the Armies for the Final Conflict

The fifth work of Satan among the nations is that he will gather the armies of the nations for that final conflict, the Campaign of Armageddon (Rev. 16:12–16).

6. Satan Leads the Gentiles in the Final Revolt

The sixth work among the nations is that after Satan is released from his fifth abode, the abyss, he will be the one who will deceive the Gentiles in the Messianic Kingdom, and he will lead these people in one final revolt (Rev. 20:7-10).    3)Fruchtenbaum, A. G. (1983). The Messianic Bible Study Collection (Vol. 77, p. 28). Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries.

Items two and three are about deceiving and influencing the nations.  Why God allows certain things and disallows others is something that we won’t understand in this lifetime.  But as we saw with Joseph, God does intervene.  One thing we can be sure of is that even with the best of leaders there will be influence from Satan.

So while Constantine’s vision was likely not from God, God did use it to spread Christianity.  And Christianity was immediately associated with war.  Not because Jesus or any of His true followers were in favor of war.  But because of the influence of one man with one dream that he claimed was from God.

From there the following things, among others, followed.

His conversion helped Christianity in many ways. Followers were safe from persecution, and Christian leaders were given many gifts by the Emperor. Constantine’s adherence to Christianity ensured exposure of all his subjects to the religion, and he had no small domain. He also made Sunday an official Roman holiday so that more people could attend church, and made churches tax-exempt. However, many of the same things that helped Christianity spread subtracted from its personal significance and promoted corruption and hypocrisy. Many people were attracted to the Church because of the money and favored positions available to them from Constantine rather than from piety. The growth of the Church and its new-found public aspect prompted the building of specialized places of worship where leaders were architecturally separated from the common attendees, which stood in sharp contrast to the earlier house churches which were small and informal.

Constantine and Christianity made strange bedfellows.

And things continued as follows.

Constantine believed that the Church and the State should be as close as possible. From 312-320 Constantine was tolerant of paganism, keeping pagan gods on coins and retaining his pagan high priest title “Pontifex Maximus” in order to maintain popularity with his subjects, possibly indicating that he never understood the theology of Christianity. From 320-330 he began to attack paganism through the government but in many cases persuaded people to follow the laws by combining pagan worship with Christianity. He made December 25th, the birthday of the pagan Unconquered Sun god, the official holiday it is now–the birthday of Jesus. It is likely that he also instituted celebrating Easter and Lent based on pagan holidays. From 330-337 Constantine stepped up his destruction of paganism, and during this time his mother, Helen, made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and began excavations to recover artifacts in the city. This popularized the tradition of pilgrimages in Christianity.

This sounds a whole lot like the three kings of Judah that we read earlier, doesn’t it?  If not, I suggest you go back and re-read the article.

the blind leading the blind?

The problem is the blind leading the blind.  When there’s a government endorsed religion, the leaders have two masters.  Remember what Jesus said about that.

Mt 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

Ouch.  Take a look at the whole passage and see how accurate and appropriate this is.

Treasures in Heaven

Mt 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Mt 6:22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

Mt 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

That clearly states the net result of a relationship coming out of government-endorsed religion.  God comes out on the short side of it.

the blind led by the blind

All of this leaves one unfortunate result.  All of the people who follow these leaders of a false Christianity are in the same position as the people in Judah who were led by Manasseh, Amon and even Josiah were.  They would become accursed and laid waste.  

It doesn’t even take a government like the one in 2 Kings or Constantine’s Roman Empire.  That’s the simple truth.  Some are more famous that others, so we read about and remember them.  But it’s true today as well.  It’s all over the world.  Even here in the U.S. where Pew says there is no official or preferred religion, there is influence.  Here in the U.S., with no government-endorsed religion, both political parties have huge influence over Christianity.  It’s also true that religions influence both political parties.  That’s why we have strange bedfellows like a Democratic Party supporting pro-choice (terminating unborn babies) but also having more concern for poor people.  And it’s why we have the Republican party who is pro-life but also supports our “god given right” to own and use assault weapons that are used to kill people.

And all the while, the blind lead the blind.  And the blind are led by the blind.  Which all goes to show why Jesus said the following.

Mt 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

As I’ve said before, the narrow path isn’t narrow because God wants people to wait in line.  The narrow path is narrow because not many people will find it.  Because too many of us are too blind to see it.

Jesus continued after that passage.

Mt 7:15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

Mt 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

Does salvation even exist in a government-endorsed religion, or has it been removed entirely?

I asked earlier – Does salvation even exist in a government-endorsed religion, or has it been removed entirely?  

The answer is clear by now.  Yes, government-endorsed religion clearly can and does affect our salvation.

And, the Bible makes it clear that following a government-endorsed religion is not grounds for being saved when the government is wrong.  We, the people, have responsibilities.  One of them is to learn the truth about God.  The other is to be sure that others learn the truth about God.

If that sounds familiar, it should.

The Great Commission The Great Commission 

Mt 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Conclusion

Government-endorsed religion is an issue.   Clearly it is up to us to do our part.  Maybe that part is to find out the truth – to come out from under the influence of government-endorsed religion.  Maybe that part is to tell the truth about government-endorsed religion, so that others won’t fall prey to it.

This article has been about Christianity and about Judaism.  However, this has been the case for Islam, ever since the days of its founder.  After Muhammad’s death, it because even more the norm.  Just witness what’s happening in the middle east now with the Shia and the Sunni sects of Islam.  Just check out this headline from two days ago: Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of ‘direct aggression’ over Yemen missile.

At the beginning of the article I wrote –

Islam is the most common official government-endorsed religion in 27 countries.  However, Christianity is the religion most favored by governments, with 13 countries where Christianity is the official government-endorsed religion and 28  countries where it is unofficially favored.  The question is what impact, if any, does this relationship have on the religions?  And, if the religion changes because it’s government-endorsed, what impact does that have on the beliefs of the people following it?  Most importantly, what happens as far as salvation?  Does salvation even exist in a government-endorsed religion, or has it been removed entirely?

The latter portion has been covered.  Since I’m already over 5,000 words, I’m going to cover the first part in the next article.  There are lots of details in the Pew article that we haven’t seen yet.  As usual with a study like this, not many conclusions are drawn in the article.  It’s the fact, just the facts.  

The background is now pretty much complete.  In the next part, we’ll look at some details, expand in the impact to Islam, and draw conclusions.  Please be sure to check it out.  (As of right now – I’m still writing it.)

 

 

 

References   [ + ]

1. ALL THE MEN OF THE BIBLE; A Portrait Gallery and Reference Library of More Than 3000 Biblical Characters; Herbert Lockyer, D.D., D.Litt.; Zondervan Publishing House; Grand Rapids, Michigan; A Division of HarperCollins Publishers
2. http://www.thenagain.info/WebChron/EastEurope/ConstantineConverts.html – see sources from this page.
3. Fruchtenbaum, A. G. (1983). The Messianic Bible Study Collection (Vol. 77, p. 28). Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries.

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