You cannot have true freedom when it rests solely on the arbitrary decisions of a small group of individuals at a given time. Dr. Francis Schaeffer predicted in 1982 the judicial tyranny that was coming 30 years later, when our U.S. Supreme Court would be legislating from the bench.
When you replace absolute morality with Relativism, you will inevitably end up with tyranny.
It is not too late for us to heed and apply these prophetic words spoken by God’s messenger, Dr. Schaeffer. We simply MUST hear these important words once again.
Since I wrote my last blog post “What is Wrong with Libertarianism?”, I’ve been called everything from a Theocrat, to a Globalist, to a Christian Fascist. It’s always lovely to see how nicely Christians can agree to disagree.
Some folks have made some major false assumptions. Since I have dared to critique the Secular Humanist worldview behind the Objectivist-style Libertarian philosophy; many have concluded that I must, therefore, be a warmonger who loves big government, exalts Federalism, despises State-sovereignty, worships the Federal Reserve, dislikes cats and wants to institute a Christian version of Sharia Law on the American people. Allow me to rest your fears. None of those things are true. Quite the contrary. (Well, okay, I don’t like cats.)
Before I address a few of the problems with Conservatism, let me tell you what I don’t like about Liberals (just because this is my blog and I can!). Liberals are Utopians. And Utopians are bad.
The Liberals think that government can fix everything. The government needs to do everything for us. It needs to raise our kids, feed us, provide us with free education, housing and healthcare, give us clean air, regulate the internet so we never see any bad things (like “hate speech”), manage our retirements, and protect us from being hurt (by taking away our guns). There is only one little problem with this worldview; It is wrong.
Okay, so with that out of my system, the reason I have a problem with Conservatism is that Conservatives tend to be Utopians as well. Their view is that government is bad. Unless they are in leadership, and then it is good. Big government is really bad; unless they are in control, and then it is really good. For whatever reason, once a Conservative gets elected, nine times out of ten, he becomes what he hates.
I like how Reagan put this:
“Government is not the solution to our problem government IS the problem.”
Do you remember when George W. Bush was elected? We had endured eight miserably intolerable years of the Clinton regime, and the Religious Right had enough! So, we elected perhaps the most outspoken Evangelical Christian to ever serve in the White House. How did that work for us? Now please don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to bash Bush. That’s been done enough, especially by the current administration! I can’t think of anyone with whom I’d rather play horseshoes, and barbeque steaks, than former President Bush (Go Rangers!).
But just because someone loves Jesus and says his bed-time prayers, that DOESN’T mean that he knows how to think according to a Biblical worldview (or apply a Biblical Ethic to matters of public policy). For example: “The cumulative debt of the United States in the fiscal years 2001-2007 was approximately $4.08 trillion, or about 40.8% of the total national debt at the time of that completion of approximately $10.0 trillion.” Unemployment also rose in January 2009 (his last month in office) to 7.8%, the highest level in more than 15 years. (See Source)
And it’s not just the economy. Over those eight years, Americans did NOT become a more moral or religious people. In 1990, 86% of Americans identified themselves as being Christian. In 2001, that was down to 78.6%, and in 2009 it was down slightly to 78%. (See Source)
During the W. Bush administration, there were still millions of abortions, there were thousands of cases of adultery and murder, there were hundreds of thousands of violent crimes, parents yelled at their children, people kicked their dogs, and the Cubs didn’t win a World Series.
Now you may say, “Hey, that’s not fair to blame all of that on the President!” Exactly. Now you’re catching on!
Here is the gist of the problem: “We have met the enemy, and it is us.” In a Constitutional Republic, America is US! WE are the problem. I love what the British author, G.K. Chesterton, once said when a newspater asked “What is wrong with the world?” He wrote a short note to the editor and said, “I am. Sincerely, G.K. Chesterton.”
Government can, and should, restrain evil.
1 Peter 2:14 says the role of the Civil Magistrate is to: “Punish those who do evil, and promote those who do good.”
Despite the popular Postmodern mantra that “you can’t legislate Morality,” the truth is that you can’t NOT legislate morality. (It just becomes a matter of WHOSE morality trumps someone else’s!) The guy who likes to steal cars doesn’t think that the police should impose their morality on him, but that’s how it works (unless you simply revert to mob rule).
What you CAN’T, and SHOULDN’T even attempt to, legislate is Holiness. The end goal for us as Christians is not to make people be moral. Yes, we need morality to help keep our streets safe and our prisons empty. People shouldn’t be allowed to molest children, engage in credit card fraud, or kill their neighbors. The Civil Magistrate does not bear the sword in vain:
“For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” (Romans 13:4)
But Jesus didn’t die for us to become moral. He died for us to become Holy. That is something that can only happen by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. You can threaten someone with punishment, and modify his outward behavior (and sometimes this is vitally important), but you can’t change his heart. Only Christ can do that.
As Christians, we must never think that a strong government (or a complete lack of it) will solve all of our social and moral problems. We can’t fix all of the problems. WE ARE THE PROBLEM! That’s why we need Jesus. We need to stop being Utopians and believing that we can ever have perfection here on earth. We can, and should, seek to be salt and light here. We should seek to apply righteous justice for the betterment of the weak and oppressed. We should try to limit evil. But don’t be deceived into thinking that anything other than the Kingdom of God will last forever. The kingdoms of this world, as good as they may be, are still a reflection of our fallen humanity.
Personally, I’m longing for the day when:
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15b)
My ultimate goal, as a Christ-follower, is not to convert someone to becoming a moral Republican. At the end of the day, he will still die in his sins and go to hell. My chief concern is to share with Him the life-transforming gospel of Jesus Christ, that will not only modify his behavior, it will save his soul. That is where my hope lies.
Israel Wayne is an author and conference speaker. This article reflects his own personal views and are not necessarily those of any organization with which he is affiliated.
One of the greatest reasons that we are seeing a breakdown in our society is that we have lost a clear understanding of the roles of the various spheres of government that God has established. God has ordained the:
Life works well when each of these spheres are governed in their proper authority and limits. When one reaches over into the realm of the other and tries to do what God never ordained it to do, severe problems emerge. Check out this short video for more:
Herman Dooyeweerd, the Dutch Theologian (1894-1977) said:
“Sphere sovereignty guarantees each societal sphere an intrinsic nature and law of life. And with this guarantee it provides the basis for an original sphere of authority and competence derived not from the authority of any other sphere but directly [delegated] from the sovereign authority of God”
Properly understood, Sphere Sovereignty should NOT imply an absolute separation of each sphere with no interaction between them, but the autonomy of each must be respected and maintained.
In 1892, Dutch Theologian and Statesman, Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920), made a famous speech entitled “Blurring the Boundaries” in which he said, “virtually all the modern world’s ills come down to this: even the state was claiming authority, that was not the the state’s or was abdicating authority where it had legitimate authority. All the ills of the modern world comes down to this: the church has not had the background to stand against the state. The family has been left unprotected and parental prerogatives has been stolen so that society as God had intended it is no longer able to function under the Lordship of Christ and therefore, new principles and new ideas and new authorities and new sovereignties and new messiahs had been raised up in Christ’s stead.”
The Faith of America’s Presidents is a book written by Daniel J. Mount. Here is an exclusive interview with the author:
Israel Wayne: Can you explain the difference between a Christian, a Theist and a Deist?
Daniel Mount: I’d be happy to. In fact, that’s a good question to start with. When we discuss this topic, it is really easy to talk past one another unless we start out by defining our terms. In particular, there are several different definitions used for the term “Christian” in American culture. Properly used, the term denotes one who has accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior, and one who accepts the basic, foundational teachings of the Christian faith. However, the term is also used in our culture to denote one who attends a Christian church, at least on occasion, and would identify himself as a Christian instead of a Jew, Muslim, or Hindu. While I’d love to reclaim the term “Christian” to its proper meaning and use it without qualifier, in recognition of the inroads the second definition has made in our culture, at times in the book I use the term “orthodox Christian” in its place. When people ask if our earliest presidents were deists, they’re often working from a similarly careless definition of the term. While pop culture historians might use the term “deist” to signify anyone who was not an orthodox Christian during the 1700s and early 1800s, that view is erroneous. A deist is someone who believes that God set the universe in motion but left it by itself to run itself. A deist believes that there is no way to supersede the laws of nature, that all history was determined at Creation, and that humans are just a part of the clockwork of the universe. Under that definition, none of our early presidents was a deist. But while some were indeed orthodox Christians, others were not; to define these, we use a third term, “theist.” A theist is someone who believes that God created the universe and remains actively involved in it. All Christians are (or ought to be) theists, but not all theists are Christians.
Israel Wayne: Why do you think so many of the American presidents claim to be Christians, even when they were not openly religious in any way?
Daniel Mount: Whether or not the secular left likes to admit it, America was a Christian society. Enough Americans were Christians that it was expected that our elective leaders would be Christians.
Israel Wayne: Can you name a few presidents who were very vocal about professing faith in Christ?
Daniel Mount: James Buchanan, James Garfield, William McKinley, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush.
Israel Wayne: Have any presidents made strong statements about the importance of faith in how men govern nations?
Daniel Mount: Yes. As one example, John Adams said in a 1798 national call to prayer:
As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God, and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him, but a duty whose natural influence is favorable to the promotion of that morality and piety without which social happiness can not exist nor the blessings of a free government be enjoyed; and as this duty, at all times incumbent, is so especially in seasons of difficulty or of danger, when existing or threatening calamities, the just judgments of God against prevalent iniquity, are a loud call to repentance and reformation; and as the United States of America are at present placed in a hazardous and afflictive situation by the unfriendly disposition, conduct, and demands of a foreign power, evinced by repeated refusals to receive our messengers of reconciliation and peace, by depredation on our commerce, and the infliction of injuries on very many of our fellow-citizens while engaged in their lawful business on the seas–under these considerations it has appeared to me that the duty of imploring the mercy and benediction of Heaven on our country demands at this time a special attention from its inhabitants.
Israel Wayne: Who are a couple of your favorite presidents? Why?
Daniel Mount: James Garfield—Garfield was the only preacher to become President. I admire his zeal for the Lord in his youth. He would preach at several churches every Sunday, and also preached at Disciples of Christ camp-meetings. Calvin Coolidge—You just have to admire someone who never used a word more than he had to and still managed to become president!
Israel Wayne: Do we have examples of presidents who became more committed to their faith once they were in the White House?
Daniel Mount: Two that come to mind are Abraham Lincoln and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Lincoln became more privately committed to the faith during his presidency. While it’s disputed whether he became a Christian before his death (I’m inclined to think he did), the pressure of the Civil War and the 1863 death of his son definitely caused him to draw closer to God. Eisenhower became more publicly committed to the faith. Though he did not want to join a church and make a public profession of faith in Christ during his presidential campaign, lest it was said he did it for political effect, he did it once he had won. He told Billy Graham that he believed America was a Christian nation and wanted a Christian leader.
Israel Wayne: When you wrote your book, what methods did you follow to make sure that you were being objective and not bringing a wrong bias to your writing?
Daniel Mount: I set myself a rule at the start: Tell the truth. It is easy to fall into the temptation to selectively present evidence to portray a president as more, or less, religious than he really was. Several previous books on the topic fall into this trap, in one direction or the other. I went back to original source material to the greatest extent possible, and read interpretations from liberal, conservative, and moderate perspectives in an attempt to present as balanced and accurate an account as possible.
Israel Wayne: Why is it important to know about the connection between faith and leaders in American history?
These forty-two men have shaped our history. Studying their faith gives a window into one of the biggest factors that shaped them. To give just two specific examples: William McKinley’s missionary zeal played into his expansionist policies, particularly in regard to the Philippines. Granted, I think his specific policy application may have been a little misplaced, as guns are rarely the most efficient method of spreading the Gospel, but I have to give him credit for good intentions. Another specific example is that the faith of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush has shaped the pro-life positions they’ve taken on the abortion issue.
To learn more about Daniel Mount, visit: www.DanielMount.com
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) reasoned that there are two types of government: Just and unjust, and that there are three basic forms that these may take.
1. A Just Monarchy
For Aquinas, the absolute best form of government was the rule of a single leader whose heart was kind and just and who applied God’s law to all matters of governance. This was the most efficient form of government, because there were no obstacles in the way of the king’s benevolent rule.
2. A Just Oligarchy
The second preference would be the rule by an aristocracy, or elite leadership who would rule as a kind of senate, making decisions for the people they represent. This was not nearly as efficient as a monarchy, so is not as ideal, but is the next best thing. Again, it is presumed that these are God-fearing men (Aquinas had no expectation of women leading in politics), who are doing what is best for the people and not merely themselves.
3. A Just Democracy
A democracy is rule by the masses. This is the most inefficient of the three options because masses of people move very slowly. Assuming that the people are just and God-fearing (this is, of course, quite a leap theologically…and begs the question of why you need a formal government in the first place!), this can be a good form of government, although it is quite unlikely that you will ever get anything done.
4. An Unjust Democracy
Supposing that the people were selfish and looked only after their own interests, rather than following the law of God and caring about others, a democracy would be the best form of unjust government. Why? Because democracies move slowly, and this form of rule would be the least likely to adopt tyranny (since everyone is wanting to be free from external rule).
5. An Unjust Oligarch
If tyranny is a risk, it is more likely to happen at the hands of a few, than at the hands of the masses. Therefore, according to Aquinas, an oligarchy is worse than a democracy, but better than a monarchy, if you HAD to settle for some form of unjust government.
6. An Unjust Monarchy
The absolute worst form of government that Aquinas could envision was the tyranny of a single monarchy. As you look back at the history of the world, it is not hard to agree with his assessment. So, the best kind of government, with a kind and benevolent king, could also be the worst, because there is no “red tape” or bureaucracy to keep the king in check.
In his later years, in the Summa Theologica, Aquinas proposed a hybrid of the three. The best form of government, he argued, would be one where a monarch would be kept in check by a group of elected aristocrats who were put into power by a polity of the masses. Sound familiar? Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were impacted by these ideas five hundred years later as they wrote the founding documents of America.