There is a growing hostility towards those who allow their religious faith to inform the public debate or policy. This is especially true in the areas of morality. In our secular age, the only arguments allowed in the public square are those determined by science, facts, or the cultural elites. The Christian faith is no longer tolerated as a source for moral guidance. Convictions tied to a traditional Christian morality have been sidelined from the public square.
The unspoken belief of our day is that faith in God is personal and private. Talk of God is allowed, but only if it expresses God’s general love and affirmation of individuals regardless of their self-determined morality or actions.
Is the Exclusion of Christians Ideas Reasonable?
It is not uncommon for people to refer to God as being a God of love, or truth, or peace but the idea of God who is “reasonable” is viewed as unreasonable. Today, the standard of what is “reasonableness” is defined by the cultural influencers and elites.
This hostility towards Christianity is problematic because it is fickle, forgetful, and above all, unlovingly intolerant. Attempts to exclude the moral reasoning of Christianity are at best inconsistent and at worst schizophrenic. Most importantly, the secularists use moral language and reason rooted in Christianity to deem Christianity as unreasonable.
The moral reasoning of our day has been borrowed from ideas that can be traced back three to four centuries to the Enlightenment. During the founding of the United States the writings of the founding fathers were saturated with Enlightenment references.
How Did Christian Ideas Shape America?
As they worked through the ideas that would come together to form our founding documents, their correspondence and notes included many Biblical references and phrases. “Donald Lutz calculates that of the approximately 3,154 citations in political writings by prominent Americans published between 1760 and 1805, some 34 percent–by far the most–are biblical, the scriptural text most cited being the book of Deuteronomy.”1
Of all the books of the Bible one would expect to have been consulted in the formation of the founding documents, few would assume Deuteronomy to be at the top of the list. What benefit would Deuteronomy have for shaping the Constitution of the United States of America? Consider the ideas embedded in Deuteronomy 16:18-20:
18You shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. 19You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. 20Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you.2The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.
The first idea is that authority is entrusted and appointed by God for the good of all (verse 18). Those serving in positions of government have not earned their position, they are not entitled to it, and the role does not belong to them; rather, power and authority belongs to a transcendent God who entrusts people to serve as stewards of the authority they wield.
This idea was also explained in fifteen hundred years later by the Apostle Paul in Romans 13:1–2: “1Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”3
A second idea found in these verses, is that those entrusted with power and authority must “judge the people with righteous judgement.” James 1:19–20 says, “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”4
Righteous judgment operates in truth, pursues peace, and avoids deception and lying. As Zechariah 8:16–17 describes, “16These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; 17do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the Lord.”5 Can you imagine a politician today that was truthful, peaceful, and not deceptive?
Deuteronomy 16:19 goes on to list examples of unrighteous judgments like “perverting justice.”How is one to avoid perverting justice? First, do not show partiality. James 2:4 warns not to make “distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts.”6
Secondly, do not seek personal gain. It is not uncommon for those serving the public in positions of power to eventually feel entitled and deserving of little extra privilege. Today, it is assumed that every politician can be bought for the right price. Accepting a bribe was explicitly condemned, “for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous.”7
Finally, verse 20 makes it clear that justice is not optional but foundational to the people’s enjoyment of the land that God had entrusted to them. “Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”8
Truth, Justice, and Liberty for All
While Christian churches were largely complicit in ignoring and even participating in the injustice of chattel slavery, many rightly stood against slavery. The universal truth that justice and human rights are not given by those in power but endowed by the Creator had been embedded in the U.S. Constitution, leading to the end of slavery and civil rights for all.
Additional concepts that have been woven into our culture and are uniquely rooted in Christian morality include: the value and rights of women, religious freedom, justice tempered with mercy, sexual continence and morality to name a few. It is difficult to see the influence of Christianity because it is so permeated almost every aspect of society. As Tom Holland describes:
Even in the European continent with churches far emptier than those in the United States–the trace elements of Christianity continued to infuse people’s morals and presumptions so utterly that many failed even to detect their presence. Like dust particles so fine as to be invisible to the naked eye, they were breathed in equally by everyone: believers, atheists, and those who never paused so much as to think about religion. …Had it been otherwise, then no one would ever have got woke.Tom Holland, Dominion, 533.
The influence of Christianity on the concepts of morality, ethics, justice, and government do not grant Christians an elevated status in culture but they should secure Christians an equal voice in the public square. Samuel Gregg provides a compelling challenge: “The desire for truth, liberty and justice is simply part of who we are. To give rational form to these human longings is thus to act in a way which is truly enlightening, fully consonant with the faiths of the West, and to build a future grounded on the sure knowledge that it is the truth which sets us free.”10
1 Samuel Gregg, Reason, Faith, and the Struggle for Western Civilization, (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2019)163-164.
2 The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Deuteronomy 16:18-20.
3 The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Romans 13:1-2.
4 The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, James 1:19-20.
5 The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Zechariah 8:16-17.
6 The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, James 2:4.
7 The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Deuteronomy 16:19.
8 The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Deuteronomy 16:20.
9 Tom Holland, Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World, First US edition (New York: Basic Books, 2019), 533.
10 Samuel Gregg, Reason, Faith, and the Struggle for Western Civilization, 166.