As a follower of Jesus Christ with a belief that the Bible is inspired by God and infallible in its character, I have many friends who tell me the solution to our politics in America is to "reclaim America for Christ." Though understanding their rationale, I fully disagree with their resolution. Politics is defined as "the art or science of governing," but if governments were to control the affairs of state in the manner Christ interacted with the world, then all prisoners would be released (Luke 4:18), foreign nations who attacked would receive no retaliation (Matthew 5:39), and the state would hand out everything requested and demand nothing in return (Luke 6:30). Jesus didn't come to govern states, He came to save sinners. Without question, were everyone to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord, there would be no need for human government, for all nations would love Him freely and other people fully (John 13:34-35). That's called heaven, or the eternal state.
Until then, human governments are necessary because nations, unlike heaven (Rev. 21:8), are full of evildoers. Governing authorities are "God's agents of wrath to bring punishment on the evildoer" (Romans 13:4). The difficulty in desiring to "reclaim America for Christ" is that God sent Christ to pardon and release the evildoer before God by paying for the sinner's crimes, whereas God establishes human governments to punish and retain the evildoerbefore man until the sinner redeems himself through payment for his crimes. See the difference? I too wish to "reclaim America for Christ," but this is done through proclamation of the Good News, not participation in the voting booth.
"A good government is an empire of laws" wrote John Adams, one of America's leading Founding Fathers. Early in Adam's political life, he wrote to his wife Abigail and explained why he must spend great time and energy in unfolding the "divine science of politics" for the American people. His letter contains one of my all-time favorite quotes as to why every American citizen should be involved in politics:
"The science of government is my duty to study, more than all other sciences... I must study politics and war, that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain." (Source: Adrienne Koch's, ed., The American Enlightenment, George Braziller, New York, 1965, p. 188).
The Founding Fathers, including Adams, were all experts in the writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans. When it came time for them to establish government in America, they chose a Republic built on Natural Law. Most Americans today are completely oblivious to Natural Law, and as a result are confused by the Founding Fathers frequent use of the terms Natural Law and Nature's God in America's founding documents. The primary person to whom the Founders turned for their understanding of Natural Law was an ancient Roman politician and political writer named Cicero.
Cicero (106-43 B.C.) held the highest political office of the state of Rome when he served as Roman Consul. In his two famous writings, The Republic and the The Laws, Cicero made an impassioned case for a state built on Natural Law which protects its citizens from the oppressive power of tyranny as well as the mass chaos of anarchy. Cicero's arguments for sound governance by Law were so persuasive to the Roman people and so threatening to the Roman military generals with tyrannical aspirations, that Romans soldiers executed Cicero as an "enemy of the state" and brought his severed head and hands to the Roman Forum. America's Founding Fathers revered Cicero because they understood by signing the Declaration of Independence, it was their heads the King of England would seek to sever. What's fascinating about Cicero's writings in the first century before Christ is that he predicted there wouldone day be a grand and promising nation which would arise with a government based on Natural Law. America's Founding Father's believed that America could become that grand and promising nation, so they pursued building their new government on Natural Law.
Cicero defined Natural Law as:
"...right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting, it summons to duty by its commands, and averts from wrongdoing by its prohibitions...It is a sin to try to alter this law, nor is it allowable to repeal any part of it, and it is impossible to abolish it entirely. We cannot be freed from its obligations by senate or people, and we need not look outside ourselves for an expounder or interpreter of it. And there will not be different laws at Rome and Athens, or different laws now and in the future, but one eternal and unchangeable law will be valid for all nations and all times, and there will be one master and ruler, that is God, over us all, for he is the author of this law, its promulgator, and its enforcing judge. Whoever is disobedient is fleeing from himself and denying his human nature, and by reason of this very fact will suffer the worst punishment." (Source: William Ebenstein, Great Political Thinkers, Hold, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1963, Great Political Thinkers, p. 133).
Remember, Cicero lived before Christ. He was a worshiper of "the gods," with his Supreme God being Jupiter, the Roman equivalent to the Greek Zeus. So when Cicero speaks of Natural Law or Divine Law, it meant to him a Law that is observable in Nature and felt by all mankind. It is common to all rational beings (Natural Law is sometimes called Common Law) created in the image of the gods. To Cicero, building a society on Natural Law meant that citizens come to the conclusion that there exists a Supreme Creator God and this God has established Law by which mankind should live.
The Founding Fathers looked to Cicero and other ancient Greek and Roman political theorists to posit five tenets of Natural Law. These tenets were used in writing America's Founding Documents, and they became the basis upon which all other American laws would be written. These five tenets are summarized by American author and political theorist W. Cleon Skousen in his 1981 classic book The Five Thousand Year Leap:
- There exists a Creator who made all things, and mankind should recognize and worship Him.
- The Creator has revealed a moral code of behavior for happy living which distinguishes right from wrong.
- The Creator holds mankind responsible for the way they treat each other.
- All mankind live beyond this life.
- In the next life mankind are judged for their conduct in this one.
Now the question is what "moral code" is held in common (e.g. Natural Law) with all rational people, regardless of their religion? Benjamin Franklin, consistent with his personal belief in Natural Law, wrote to Ezra Stiles, President of Yale University, and articulated the moral code of Natural Law (emphasis mine):
"Here is my creed: I believe in one God, the Creator of the universe. That he governs it by his providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is in doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental points in all sound religion." (Source: Albert Henry Smyth, ed., The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, 10 vols., The Macmillan Company, New York, 1905-1907, 10:84)
Franklin's creed is a summary of how a person behaves under Natural Law. It is a lifestyle held in common with all true Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Taoists, Christians, and everyone else involved in "sound religion." I will sometime hear Christians say, "America is a Christian nation, because the 10 Commandments are written in stone above the heads of the Supreme Court Justices?" What many Christians don't understand is that the same Supreme Court Building has stone friezes of many religious lawgivers, including the Hebrew lawgiver Moses, the Babylonian lawgiver Hammurabi, the Muslim lawgiver Muhammad, as well as others. Wait, did I just say Muhammad? Indeed, the builders of the Supreme Court building understood that the Founding Fathers believed America had room for any virtuous person of any religion as long as they treated their fellow man well. The people the Founding Fathers feared were those with no moral compass or understanding of Natural Law. They considered them foolish and a danger to good government. Many Americans today are convinced Muhammad didn't adhere to Natural Law himself, but that's not my point. The Founding Fathers personally knew many practicing, virtuous Muslims who were coming to America and they were telling them (and others of various religions) that as long as they held to Nature's God and Natural Law, they were welcome.
Of course there were patriotic Founding Fathers who loved Jesus Christ deeply and were zealous that all Americans be Christian. Men like John Jay and Patrick Henry and others were vocal in their desires to convert all men (I am too!). However, the Founding Documents of America do not one time contain the name of Jesus Christ. They speak of the Supreme Being, God, Nature, Nature's God, and the Laws of Nature (read them for yourself) - but never once Jesus Christ. It's not that our Founding Fathers were ashamed of Jesus. On the contrary, many of our Founding Fathers were professing believers and devout followers of Christ. They understood, however, as did Cicero, that a good government must be built on Natural Law to avoid religious and political tyranny or widespread and dangerous anarchy. Overtime, Americans stopped reading the Founding Documents, not to mention theClassics, and came to the false conclusion that to be "a good American, you must be a good Christian." Our Founding Fathers believed to be a good American citizen you must adhere to Natural Law and live a life of doing good to your fellow citizens by protecting their lives, guarding their liberties and respecting their pursuit of happiness. The Founding Fathers considered "the pursuit of happiness" as the unalienable right to privateownership of land and assets.
That's why radical, fundamental Muslims who kill in the name of Allah, or radical, fundamental Christians who kill in the name of Christ are not welcome as American citizens. That's why persons or groups of persons who desire to forcibly take away another person's wealth are not welcome as American citizens. That's why anyone who wishes to take away the unalienable rights of all Americans, rights granted by Nature's God, are not welcome as American citizens. These actions violate Natural Law. Americans have historically been the most charitable people in the world, because charity is always voluntary and arises from hearts of virtue. However, tyranny involves the forcible redistribution of wealth, the taking of life for the advancement of personal power or pleasure, and the enslavement of others on the basis of race, religion or reward. Adherence to Natural Law is America's safeguard against evil tyranny.
So as a conservative Christian who believes that the only way to be liberated from sin before God and to be brought into full peace with Him is through the atonement of Jesus Christ, I say to those who disagree with my Christianity that there is room for you in America. Our Founding Fathers established our government on Natural Law, and if you will simply acknowledge you are bound by Divine Law to do good to your fellow man, then I welcome you as a fellow citizen of our great country. Furthermore, I challenge you to participate in the process of American politics to elect virtuous men and women who will adhere to Natural Law and vow to severely punish those evil doers among us who harm or injure others by stealing or destroying property, abusing or wrongly taking life, or seeking to establish either tyranny or anarchy within our great land. America is a Republic built on Natural Law, guaranteeing the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all her citizens.
I am a preacher of the gospel. I want the world to know Christ. But on the other hand, I think it's time we Christians who enjoy American citizenship stop obsessing over whether or not our government reflects Christian laws and realize that Natural Law is the foundation of good government. America is great because throughout America's history, our government has promoted liberty and resisted tyranny and anarchy. I've just returned from the continent of Africa where there are examples of state anarchy (Libya and Somalia) and state tyranny (Zimbabwe and Nigeria). Additional examples could be given from Africa and other continents. America has been great because America's government has been the model of Cicero's vision where a virtuous people respect the rights of others in obedience to Nature's God and Natural Law.