Thursday, April 24, 2008

Focus Holds a Debate With Newdow

Apparently I have been asleep. I must either be so tired that I missed an email update or there has been a very well kept secret going on at Focus' campus. Since I checked all of my emails, it must be a well kept secret. Last night atheist Michael Newdow debated Dr. Chris Leland as to "whether the use of 'God' in the Pledge of Allegiance and on U.S. currency violates the Constitution."

So I have to ask, did everyone else know this but me? Anyway, you may read about the story here.

First, I have to ask, what has taken them so long to have such a debate? The idea of publicly defending your position like this against a position that can't even begin to justify itself, much less make actual historical arguments is long over due.

Newdow is quoted as arguing,

“There was a huge change in thinking between 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was written, and 1787, when the Constitution was written... There’s no mention of God in our Constitution. As a matter of fact, if you look through, there’s statements against government getting involved in religion.”

I have long thought this argument was bogus on grounds of common sense. Although Leland's response may be adequate, I am not certain if he truly dealt with the argument. I'll have to get the MP3s to find out. Nevertheless, I'd like to make my own point about such an argument.

Constitutions are written for a purpose. Here is a definition of Constitution from this thefreedictionary website:

1. The act or process of composing, setting up, or establishing.
a. The composition or structure of something; makeup.
b. The physical makeup of a person: Having a strong constitution, she had no trouble climbing the mountain.
a. The system of fundamental laws and principles that prescribes the nature, functions, and limits of a government or another institution.
b. The document in which such a system is recorded.
c. Constitution The fundamental law of the United States, framed in 1787, ratified in 1789, and variously amended since then.

Notice what a constitution does. It defines the system and the nature and function of the government. I just happen to be on my church's Constitution committee. I am sitting here looking through it looking for the mention of God or Jesus Christ. Let me take you through it article by article.

Article 1. No mention of God. Amazing! The very first article forgets to mention God. Must be a bunch of atheists running this church I attend...right?

Article 2 declares it purpose. So obviously the composers sought to write something that had to do with God and Jesus Christ. Jesus gets mentioned once and the word God is written twice. This point must not be overlooked. If there were a document that already stated the purpose (such as a Declaration of Independence) then this article may only be a reminder of why it is being written. The Constitution does have a preamble. Since it is not establishing a church is it any wonder that the name God is not written?

Article 3. no mention of God at all.

Article 4 has 8 sections on membership. Section 2 states, "Any person professing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ..." That's it. No other mention of God or Jesus.

Article 5 speaks of committees and their duties. It is by far and away the largest section taking up over 7 pages with no mention of God at all. Apparently, the writers didn't see the need for God in the establishment or justification of these duties.

Article 6 speaks to how meetings within the church should take place and what needs to occur in these meetings. For example, the annual election shall be held the second Sunday in December. Guess God won't be at the meeting since He wasn't mentioned at all.

Article 7 speaks of vacancies. Apparently, Jesus doesn't get a vote.

There you have it. An entire religious organization's Constitution barely mentions God or Jesus Christ. Why? That is not necessarily its purpose! The United States Constitution is not the Church. The Declaration of Independence is the purpose statement that gives meaning to the Constitution. Without it as being foundational, the Constitution just doesn't work.

John Adams stated,

"Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people; it is wholly inadequate for any other."

James Madison wrote,

"We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God."

Now for the negative against Leland. The article from Focus says,

“He (Leland) spoke quite eloquently and winsomely how his own faith gave him a hope and a purpose no document — not even one as great as the Constitution — could possibly provide.”

I have no idea why people think this is persuasive to atheists. Moral betterness can be found in any religion. Personal testimonies are not the Gospel and in this scenario create a grand confusion between Church and State. To debate public policy and and matters belonging to the State, one must be very careful to recognize the United States may have been mightily used in God's Providence, but to go any further, as if the U.S. is a Christian nation in the sense that it is blessed by God similarly to Israel, is to overthrow the biblical testimony on the nature of God's Kingdom. Jesus specifically stated that His Kingdom is not of this world.

Perhaps if Christians would believe their own Confessions, we would be more consistent. I leave you with the LBCF 1689 chapter 24, Of the Civil Magistrate,

1. God the supream Lord, and King of all the World, hath ordained Civil (a) Magistrates to be under him, over the people for his own glory, and the publick good; and to this end hath armed them with the power of the Sword, for defence and encouragement of them that do good, and for the punishment of evil doers.

a Rom. 13 1,2,3,4.

2. It is lawful for Christians to Accept, and Execute the Office of a Magistrate when called thereunto; in the management whereof, as they ought especially to maintain (b) Justice, and Peace, according to the wholsome Laws of each Kingdome, and Commonwealth: so for that end they may lawfully now under the New Testament (c) wage war upon just and necessary occasions.
b 2 Sam. 23.3. Ps. 82.3,4.

3. Civil Magistrates being set up by God, for the ends aforesaid; subjection in all lawful things commanded by them, ought to be yeilded by us, in the Lord; not only for wrath (d) but for Conscience sake; and we ought to make supplications and prayers for Kings, and all that are in Authority, (e) that under them we may live a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty.

d Rom. 13.5,6,7. 1 Pet. 2.17.

1 comment:

Howard Fisher said...

I do want to be clear. I am not against my church's constitution. It is just fine as far a constitutions go. My point is that it is not the purpose of the church's constitution to necessarily state God at every point. The church's constitution or any constitution is the by-laws that govern an institution and secure its advancement in and for the purpose stated in its charter.