Governing Thoughts

Barry Sheets

Welcome to the second edition of “In The Gates: The Journal of Principled Policy.” As current events unfold, it is evident that our nation is experiencing a significant yet still somewhat subdued upheaval of the very foundations of our social order.

What is the cause of this upheaval? Is it political instability on the world scene? Economic fluctuations that weaken trade balances? Educational failures that leave children without skills to succeed? Or could it be something more fundamental, more inherently dangerous to the future success of the American experiment in liberty, something that could change the structure of the world’s longest lived form of government, the American constitutional republic?

The case has clearly been made that our American culture is in the midst of a paradigm shift, but the only question remaining is which direction will that shift take us: farther into the dark night of radical secularism or into the glorious dawn of a consistently Biblical socio-political ethic? Who will be in ultimate authority in the body politic? Will it be the state as an organic entity, served by its acolytes the pluralistic minorities who utilize the levers of the state to achieve tyrannical dominance? Or shall the Lord of Hosts, God who created and gave form to government as a sphere of jurisdiction reflecting His perfect governance, be acknowledged as the preeminent sovereign ruler over all?

The pendulum has been swinging in a dangerous direction for a while now. Ed Clowney, in his book The Christian and American Law notes “Democratic government must therefore recognize a pluralism of values, not merely those of ethnic communities but also those individually held. The only values to be rejected are those that claim absolute validity; the assumptions on which our republic was founded are now the only assumptions held to be inadmissible in a pluralistic age.”1

At issue is the question of who will be the sovereign of our nation: a just and merciful God, or a capricious and self-serving humanistic elite? As Rousas Rushdoony so clearly stated: “The source of law is the god of a culture.” Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore’s stand to acknowledge God is a stand not on symbolism, but on the principle that the God of the Bible is the sovereign ruler over all law, government and political action, as well as every other area of life.

Moore’s public actions are in keeping with a long-standing view of the just authority of government. Moore stands on the doctrine of a magistrate’s duty to step between parties when a higher authority is acting in a manner detrimental to the people. Jonathan Mayhew, a theologian from the eighteenth century, stated a clear vision of the right view of governmental authority when he said “We may very safely assert these two things in general, without undermining government: one is, that no civil rulers are to be obeyed when they enjoin things that are inconsistent with the commands of God. All such disobedience is lawful and glorious … All commands running counter to the declared will of the Supreme Legislator of heaven and earth are null and void, and therefore disobedience to them is a duty, not a crime. Another thing that may be asserted with equal truth and safety is, that no government is to be submitted to at the expense of that which is the sole end of all government—the common good and safety of society.”2

The battle is not about a public showing of “Roy’s rock” (as the secular media so dismissively refers to Moore’s Ten Commandments monument). In essence, Moore’s “absolutist” assertion that all of American law and justice is founded upon the ultimate authority of God is a bald threat to the power and control of America’s humanistic elite. This foundation robs them of their base of control: the false belief in the validity of religious and civic pluralism and the secularization of law, which is the moral governance of a people. Allowing Moore’s assertion to stand unchallenged is tantamount to admitting to the hollowness of pluralism’s claims.

Our contributors have carefully examined the Biblical foundations of our government and social order, emphasizing the significance of what has now become an exercise in persecution. The battle over the display of the Ten Commandments reveals theological, political, social and even epistemological wars that are being waged for the souls of America. May God help us if we neglect this battle and choose to serve the Baal of pluralism rather than uphold the absolute claims of ownership of the Lord Jesus Christ over all heaven and earth.

1. Edmund P. Clowney, “The Kingdom, the Church and the Gospel in an age of Pluralism”, in House, H. Wayne, editor, The Christian and American Law: Christianity’s Impact on America’s Founding Documents and Future Direction, Grand Rapids, Kregel Publications, 1998, p. 267.

2. Jonathan Mayhew “On the Righteousness of Rebellion”, in Nye, editor, American Thought and Writing, v.2, The Revolution and the Early Republic, Boston, Houghton Mifflin Co, 1965, p.6-7)

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