Rev. David Coffin, pastor of New Hope Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Fairfax, VA, was recently interviewed by The Washington Examiner over questions pertaining to church and state. Coffin gives a brief, but most helpful summary of the historic Presbyterian doctrine on the spirituality of the church. Coffin is asked, "What is the spirituality of the church?" His answer follows:
In a way it's a corollary to the idea of religious liberty, the idea of the separation of church and state. It's the doctrine that the church shouldn't intrude into the government, that the church has a limited calling, given to it by Christ that it doesn't have the freedom to expand upon. It's a doctrine that's fallen on hard times now. But the idea of it goes back as far as the Westminster Confession of Faith, which says synods are not to interfere into the affairs of the commonwealth but are to devote themselves to the life of the church. People nowadays think whatever Christians are called to do the church is called to do and vice versa. But this is a mistake. The believer is called to engage in politics, but the church is not, as such. So for example, the church can scripturally say abortion is the taking of an innocent life. But, under the doctrine of the spirituality of the church, the church can't declare how Christians are to respond to abortion as a political matter -- should they pack the court? Should they get a constitutional amendment passed? As with all political questions, it involves exercise of prudential judgments that just aren't spelled out in scripture and Christians have a right to disagree with respect to such judgments. This doctrine is an odd thing these days because evangelicals are so convinced that if you are really going to be committed to the lordship of Christ, the church itself should be involved in all kinds of politics.
It's a great, albeit brief interview. If it whets your appetite for more on the subject, I'd encourage you to listen to the discussion on The Reformed Forum on the same topic.