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An Election-Day Sermon
- Jesus is Lord & Savior -
F. Earle Fox
St Luke's REC, Santa Ana, CA
Trinity XXII - 10/31/10
Zech. 3; Psalm 147; Phil. 1:3-11; Mt. 18:21-35
Churches typically gave "election day" sermons in colonial days, because the people wanted to hear what God had to say about their government and their governors. Those sermons were sometimes in political chambers, and in military situations. People wanted to know what God wanted to say about the laws they would be forced to obey. They trusted God's wisdom, not that of their governors. The force of law was almost universally understood to be wielded under the law and the grace of God, not under the law and the grace of civil government itself.
I will begin with quotes from the founding fathers. You probably would not have been taught these in most schools for the last 60 or 70 years. And then I will describe how we Christians might discern Godly candidates in our own time.
Some of these quotes are taken from Original Intent by David Barton [www.wallbuilders.com ]. The book is a massive display of quotations from the American founding fathers.
John Jay [Note correction from John Marshall in original], first Chief Justice (1789-95) of the US Supreme Court said: Providence has given us the choice of our rulers, and it is our obligation to choose Christians. That was the stance of the Supreme Court all through the 1800's. He was echoed later by Abraham Lincoln: “It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God...”
Three men have been considered deists by many if not most historians of the last hundred years: Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, & Thomas Jefferson. That has had a very significant impact on the thinking of Americans because these three were among the most important leaders. George Washington is often included.
A deist believes that God created the world, then, like the "Battery Bunny", just set it going in its own, not interfering with its progress. No founding father believed that.
From John Adams: "The idea of infidelity [which he defines as a disbelief in the inspiration of the Scriptures or the divine origin of Christianity] cannot be treated with too much resentment or too much horror. The man who can think of it with patience is a traitor in his heart and ought to be execrated as one who adds the deepest hypocrisy to the blackest treason." P. 144. These folks were straight speakers, not interested in "feel good" pronouncements. One can, and ought to, grant atheists the right to their honest opinion and engage them on that level, but one cannot grant to our politicians the right to brainwash the people, lie to us, or rewrite our history, as we have allowed to happen to us. Adams' comments ring true for those persons. Also said Adams: “I consider a decent respect for Christianity among the best recommendations for public service.” Adams was not a trinitarian Christian. Like Jefferson, he was a Unitarian.
Thomas Jefferson [see http://www.theroadtoemmaus.org/RdLb/21PbAr/Hst/US/DeismDecl&TJeff.htm, interview with Barton on Jefferson]: In only 6 of about 19,000 extant letters of Jefferson does he indicate a doubt on the divinity of Jesus. In every one of his actions, he is publicly and pointedly supporting Christianity. Barton writes: "He started church services at the U. S. Capitol in 1800. By 1857, the largest church in the U. S. was the one he helped start. He also started church services in the War Department and the Treasury Department on Sundays." Washington, DC, was a new city, and there were few buildings or churches yet, so they used what they had, the Capital building itself, or the War Department. Whatever his questions or doubts, Jefferson was not hostile to the Christian faith, and in no sense advocating a secular government: “God who gave us life gave us liberty.”
Barton says: "[Jefferson] wrote David Rush, signer of the Declaration, a letter stating, 'I am a Christian.' He was one of the founders of the Virginia Bible Society, he made sure the University of Virginia had a huge collection of Christian literature. He also invited several denominations to establish seminaries on the University of Virginia campus. When he signed presidential documents, he signed them, 'In the year of our Lord Christ'.... He put Jesus Christ right in his signature."
Jefferson was probably a Unitarian rather than a trinitarian, that is, he thought Jesus was sent by God, yet not Himself the Son of God. That is not an orthodox Christian position. But he did believe that God is our creator, that we are thus accountable to God both personally and corporately, and that God does intervene in human history. That is not a deist position. As far as it goes, it is a Biblical position. It is the foundational Biblical principle -- the doctrine of creation.
Benjamin Franklin: [Barton, p. 110 ff.] At the constitutional convention, as it reached a seemingly impassible deadlock, 81 year old Franklin rose to speak, addressing the chairman, George Washington: "In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights, to illuminate our understanding?
In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine protection. Our prayers, sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor.... And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? ....
I have lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth -- that God governs in the affairs of men.... We have been assured, sir, in the Sacred Writings, that 'except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it.' ....without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel....
I therefore beg leave to move -- that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven...., be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business...."
James Madison, who recorded the convention, noted the beaming face of Washington as Franklin finished. Washington was typically Anglican in his reticence to publicly share his faith, but a believer.
After the constitution was passed, and yet a few declined to sign it, Franklin said, "....I must own that I have so much faith in the general government of the world by Providence that I can hardly conceive a transaction of such momentous importance to the welfare of millions of now existing... should be suffered to pass without being in some degree influenced, guided, and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent, and beneficent Ruler, in whom all inferior spirits live and move and have their being."
George Washington: “It is impossible to rightly govern in the world without God and the Bible.”
Franklin, Jefferson, and John Adams might have doubted the divinity of Christ (and that is not a small matter), but they were believers in the Biblical Creator God. None of these people were working toward a secular state. There were no atheists or deists among them. Not one. Not even Tom Paine.
These quotes go on for chapters and chapters in Original Intent.
Sources relied upon by Founding Fathers: Barton describes a 10-year study done by political scientists to discover what sources the Founding Fathers used for their ideas of government, covering the 45 years from 1760-1805. They examined over 15,000 documents, isolating 3,154 quotations. They discovered that the Bible was quoted 34% of the time, the whole of the Enlightenment philosophers 22% of the time, and most of those in the early Enlightenment which was still compatible with Christian belief. And some of those quotations from the later Enlightenment philosophers was to disagree, not agree, with them.
Barton writes: "In fact, some have even conceded that 'historians are discovering that the Bible, perhaps even more than the Constitution, is our Founding document.'" Barton was referring to an article, "How the Bible Made America" in Newsweek, December 27, 1982, p. 44.
But you rarely get that information in our public schools, our media, or from our politicians. And most tragically, we do not hear it from our pastors. A goodly number of them must have read that article. Why did they not raise a hue and cry? That is inexcusable dereliction of duty and gross incompetence on the part of our seminaries and clergy. John Adams might be calling it hypocrisy and treason.
The more I think about this strange conflict between reason and revelation which was certainly germinating at the time of the Revolution, the more convinced I am that both sides were right. On one hand, Christians were upholding the creed of the Church, that Jesus is both Lord and Savior. On the other hand, persons who greatly desired to be Christians we upholding our obligation to be reasonable. For reasons beyond what we can deal with here, both sides were representing the mind of God, but they did not know how to put the two aspects together.
That inability caused havoc through the 1800's, leading to the virtual demise of Christianity in the public arena. It is only in the last few decades that there have been signs of a coming together, a conviction among more and more Christians that we must recover our intellectual credibility. The rise of the Intelligent Design movement is a prime example. There is a growing number of very competent Christian apologists abroad today. They are a long way from affecting the average pulpit or even seminary, but that will come with time.
It is time for us to do some remediation -- beginning right here with ourselves. After having done our own homework, we need to be able to repeat all this information to our families and friends when the subject of "Church & State" comes up.
In fact, we need to bring it up. Take the offensive. The evidence in every single important issue today is squarely on the Biblical side -- but our people do not know that, and very few are telling them.
So, what place has the Church? What place have Christians? And what place has the civil government?
That depends upon whether there is a creator God, or not. It depends on whether the cosmos is to be explained by some random, chance theory of evolution, or by an Intelligent Designer. Those are the only two choices. If there is no creator God, then our Founding Fathers were wrong, and the French revolution atheists were right.
But also if the atheists are right, then there is no possibility of sustaining a limited government for a free people, because godless government will always centralize, and drift into tyranny. Them there will be no truly free elections, no free market of either ideas or commerce. The citizens will become apathetic slaves on a government plantation. Or revolt.
As a Speaker of the House ca. 1855 said, "We will be ruled by the Bible or by the bayonet." Or William Penn, "Men must be governed by God, or they will be ruled by tyrants."
Creation vs. evolution is not the issue for today, but that is the underlying issue for all religious questions. Christians are committed to the assumption that God is real. There are good intellectual, moral, and spiritual reasons for saying so. The intellectual, moral, and spiritual high ground belongs to God, not to secular philosophers. I believe these assertions can be proven beyond any reasonable doubt.
If the Biblical view is true, then John Marshall is correct -- Christians are duty bound to elect faithful, intelligent, and capable Christians for our rulers. So, let us ask, How then do we discern Godly candidates in a swarm of unGodly candidates?
We must, to begin with, ignore whether any such candidates are available. They might or might not be. We first want to know simply, what is God looking for. God is our boss, He sets our agenda. We first are His servants, not servants first of society or even less of civil government. The basic principle is that God is sovereign over all creation, no, parts excepted, least of all, civil government. Our Declaration of Independence puts it quite clearly. All our freedoms come from God, not from civil government. Thus "to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men", meaning that civil government is to secure these rights, not remove or compromise them.
But government is about coercion. You make laws only because you want to enforce or forbid some behavior. Laws are about behavior, and thus limit our freedoms. Some things need to be coerced -- there is no freedom to drive on the wrong side of the road. But some things are not to be forced, such as opinions, attitudes, and many kinds of behaviors such as politeness, religion, education, worship, etc.
So we look for candidates who can say gracefully, and in public, that Jesus is Lord, that God is sovereign over civil government, that our nation was founded on those principles. And that all nations are accountable to God.
We look for candidates who can answer those who object -- that mixing religion with politics leads to tyranny, or objects that we forget that there are many religions in America. These charges are wrong. Religion as such is no more tyrannical than is politics. Are we to have a separation of politics and government? Religion is not the issue. The issue is which religion.
Psalm 147 tells us: "Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem; praise thy God, o Sion. For He hath made fast the bars of thy gates, and hath blessed thy children within thee.
God did it, not the government. "He showeth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and ordinances unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation, neither have the heathen knowledge of his laws."
Religions are not all the same. Only in the Bible do we find a creator God who loves His creation in the way He rules over us. The law is made for man, not man for the law. Only that kind of religion can raise up a free people which can keep their government limited. Neither a secular philosophy nor a pagan religion can do that. They have no principle of authority, no moral distinction of right and wrong, and thus no principle of obligation. Thus they cannot have a legitimacy, a right to command, in government, only coercion by the strong man. Only a creator God has moral authority because only He can give us our reason for existence.
So, in 1962 when the Supreme Court passed Engel vs. Vitale, telling God He was no longer sovereign (declaring prayer in public schools illegal), they gutted the constitution and their own court of their legitimacy. There is no authority other than moral authority, so they now rest only on power, not on moral authority. They have lost their right to command. That is the very definition of tyranny. They are in rebellion against God.
Other than under God, there is no reasonable possibility of a limited government for a free people. So, submission to the law of God is the primary principle of a Godly ruler.
There are other issues, such as abortion, education, taxes, finances, economy, etc. But none of those can be decided until we know who or what the candidate worships. He will, in practical fact, either worship God, or he will end up worshiping civil government -- which will claim to supply us our two stabilities. It will "take care of us", and it will tell us what to do. It will tell us whether we are human beings, and tell us the difference between right and wrong, our moral direction. Civil government will become a god.
There are many non-Christian persons who agree with the Christian position, for example, on abortion. But that kind of alliance is only accidental. Christians must solidly base politics on our relationship with our Creator. We can welcome those who support Christian positions, but we must make it clear where we stand and why, and not barter away our faith in order to get support.
That being said, in the confusion and ignorance even among the great majority of Christians on the foundations of government, we may be forced to choose a candidate on the basis of the issue. We may not know the faith of the candidate.
Many Christians say that there are "red flag" issues, such as abortion, cloning, homosexuality, harvesting zygotes, etc., and that we should never vote for one who supports doing any of these things. I believe that is the right policy to take. If we can find neither a Christian candidate, nor a candidate who is clean on those issues, then we must write in a choice of our own. (If you do, be sure to get a paper ballot.)
Voting for the "least of two evils" is seldom, if ever, helpful. We must vote for those who speak the truth, not the least of two evils -- and not on whether they can get elected. If we do not vote for truth-speakers, truth never gets a voice in public affairs. Slavery was not defeated by compromise. It was defeated by holding the line -- "Just say NO." If we do not vote for Godly candidates, then God never gets a voice in the public arena. We are warned that if we do not acknowledge the name of God in public, Jesus will not acknowledge us before the Father. That is stern stuff.
We must back up our testimony with Godly living, loving our neighbor just as we love ourselves, even if our neighbor is opposed to us. If we Christians said out loud that we are looking for Godly candidates who submit to the law of God, and who expect civil government to do so, that would change the nature of the whole public debate. We must stand on the Lord's ground -- not on secular compromise.
Our founding fathers and mothers (e.g., Abigail Adams, John Adams' wife) were quite bold about this. We must recover their boldness, and that of the Christians who captured the whole Roman empire by not compromising on their creed: Jesus is Lord and Savior.
Joshua, in our Zechariah reading, is a symbol of Israel as a priestly nation. There was no separation of Church & State in Israel. They are different institutions with different tasks, but under God, those tasks are complementary, not competitive. God rules both.
The angel tells Joshua, "Behold, I will bring my servant, the Branch..." The Branch of David, the Messiah. In Him are united all things, physical and spiritual, time and eternity, Church and State. Our civil governments are to be symbols of that unity. God rules both Church and Civil Government -- the government is to be the referee and protector, and the Church is to be the moral conscience and worship leader -- for we, the people.
Heavenly Father, ruler of all things, guide all Americans as we vote this Tuesday; but especially Your people, Jews and Christians, to stand for You in word and deed, to vote for those who know You to be our Ruler. Give us wisdom in making that choice; and give us governors who, by the power of the Holy Spirit, will readily and openly acknowledge You as did our forefathers; in the name of Him who is Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
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