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date: 17 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The historically predominant Presbyterian stance on church and state grew from sixteenth-century Reformed confessions, many of which advocated close cooperation between churches and governments aimed at promoting godliness comprehensively throughout society. Presbyterians in several parts of Europe tried to set up established Presbyterian churches, but they succeeded only in Scotland and (partially) in the Netherlands. Elsewhere, including North America, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, Presbyterians eventually accepted—in some cases reluctantly—the separation of church and state and general religious freedom. Most Presbyterians, nonetheless, continued to insist that they should still strive to create and maintain a godly society. The interpretive question remains, because Presbyterians sought to achieve informally what they had once hoped to achieve through formal church-state establishments: Have they rescued positive legacies of Christendom or retained elements that undermine Christian integrity, despite their belief that formal church-state unions undercut that integrity?

Keywords: church-state relationship, establishment, Christendom, voluntary principle, John Witherspoon, Thomas Chalmers, Westminster Confession, freedom of religion

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