Tribulation Saint

Historic Christianity in the Twenty First Century

Month: July, 2016

HILLARY CLINTON AS PRESIDENT?

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            Last night Hillary Clinton became the first woman in U.S. history to be nominated by a major party for President.  Her formal qualifications for the job are impressive: a graduate of Yale Law School, she has previously served as both a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, giving her experience in both the legislative and executive branches of government.  She is the consummate Washington “insider,” which in this election cycle may or may not be an advantage.

Mrs. Clinton has devoted her life to the pursuit of social justice.  Reflecting her Methodist upbringing she quoted in her acceptance speech John Wesley’s rule of life:

“Do all the good you can,

By all the means you can,

In all the places you can,

At all the times you can,

To all the people you can,

As long as ever you can.”

And yet in the same speech she expressed support for a woman’s right to make her own healthcare choices (which we take as a reference to legalized abortion), and for LGBT rights.  In so doing she certainly thinks she is “doing all the good she can . . .to all the people you can.”  But is she really?

The problem is that the liberal, progressive” agenda on some of these issues puts the Democratic Part in direct conflict with the 6th and 7th Commandments: “Thou shalt not kill,” “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”  Abortion violates the sanctity of human life.  The gay lifestyle undermines marriage as a committed, complementary relationship between a man and a woman.  The Ten Commandments, in turn, reflect God’s order for human society.

As human beings we have a moral obligation to obey the will of our Creator, no matter what we may think our individual self-interest may be.  But is it really in our self-interest to disobey God?  Are we really “doing all the good we can” by helping others to sin?  John Wesley certainly would not have thought so.  Neither should we.

A former Democratic president, Jimmy Carter, quoted Micah 6:8 in one of his speeches:

“He has shown you, O man, what is good;

And what does the Lord require of you

But to do justly,

To love mercy,

And to walk humbly with your God?”

(NKJV)

Significantly this exhortation is directed toward the entire human race: “He has shown you, O man.”  The word translated “man” is “adam,” the name of our common ancestor, and in this context includes all of his descendants, i.e. the entire human race.

The verse goes on to tell us “what is good,” and what “the Lord requires” of us.  It is a matter of a moral obligation that we to our Creator, and it is “good” – it is right and proper and beneficial to all concerned.

A part of that obligation is that we “do justly,” and that, in turn, means that the civil magistrate has a duty to

“Defend the poor and fatherless;

Do justice to the afflicted and needy.

Deliver the poor and needy;

Free them from the hand of the wicked.”

(Psalm 82:3,4)

The underlying assumption here is that the strong and powerful will take advantage of the weak and vulnerable, and therefore the role of government is to “deliver” or “free” the poor from the rich and powerful.  Thus it is unconscionable that we would have a political and economic system that would leave a large segment of the population destitute and without access to healthcare.  As God judged ancient Israel, so will He judge us. On this point Mrs. Clinton is certainly well-intentioned.

We are also to “love mercy.”  It is a little hard to find an exact English equivalent for the word translated “mercy” (Hebrew: chesed), and scholars have long debated its exact meaning.  But it certainly includes the idea of kindness shown toward others and also carries along with it a kind of faithful and devoted love.  It is “mercy” in the sense of compassion shown toward those in need, and the word is sometimes translated “lovingkindness.”  Not only are we do display this quality; we are to “love” it.  So here again Mrs. Clinton is quite right to be concerned about the welfare of children, minorities, and those suffering from discrimination and injustice.

But the text also says that we are to “walk humbly with your God,” or as it might be more literally translated, “to behave humbly to walk with your God.”  We must be sufficiently humble to recognize that God’s ways are best, and bring our lives into conformity with His will.

The problem with the modern Democratic Party is that it wants to take a secular approach to social justice, and this raises the question of where our standard of justice comes from.  We tend to err on the side of individual autonomy – each individual should be allowed to decide for himself how he wants to live his life.  But when we ignore God’s will our efforts at social justice can be self-defeating.  By promoting “LGBT rights” we may think that we are creating a more inclusive and tolerant society.  But if in the process we create the impression that there are no rules, that any and every kind of sexual behavior can be tolerated, we wind up undermining family stability.  In the long run we create more social problems than we solve.  Lyndon Johnson famously “declared war on poverty.”  Today there is more poverty than ever, and the “Sexual Revolution” is a major reason why.  Pat Moynihan, an Assistant Secretary of Labor in the Johnson Administration and later Mrs. Clinton’s predecessor in the U.S. Senate, pointed out the obvious fact that single parent families have to struggle to survive.  Why is there so much crime in the inner cities?  Because too many young men are growing up in single parent homes without good male role models.  What goes around comes around.

We do not help others by helping them to sin.  We help them by showing them the path toward redemption and forgiveness in Christ Jesus.  All of us live in a universe created by God; all of us are ultimately accountable to Him.  We can find happiness and fulfilment only when we come in line with His purposes for our lives – and His purposes are wise and good.  To love the sinner is to seek to free him from his sin.  Abortion and sodomy are unspeakable sins and are bringing down God’s wrath upon the nation.

Christians, pray for our country!

 

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CHRISTIANS AND THE ELECTION

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Well, last night Donald Trump gave his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.  It was, in many respects, a masterful display of salesmanship.  He addressed the fears of many Americans, presented himself as the law-and-order candidate, and reached out to key blocks of voters, including Bernie Sanders supporters, inner city residents, the LGBTQ community, and evangelicals.

It remains to be seen, however, what kind of president he would make if elected.  He has no prior experience in public office, has no clearly defined political ideology, and has a reputation as a ruthless, cutthroat businessman.  It is hard to see how he could keep some of the promises he made in his speech, such as ending violence (“and I mean very soon”), defeat ISIS, and end wasteful spending.  It is easy for an outsider to make promises; it is harder to keep them.

Thus we are faced with an uncomfortable choice in November.  Hillary Clinton is predictably liberal; Trump is unpredictable.  Many evangelicals feel that we must vote for Trump because nothing could be worse than Clinton.  But the fact of the matter is that we do not know whether Trump actually would be a better president that Clinton.  How, then, should a Christian vote in a situation like this?

It must be remembered, first of all, that we are voting for the next President of the United States, not the pastor of our local church.   A president does not necessarily have to meet the biblical qualifications for a church elder.  The United States is not, strictly speaking, a Christian organization.  “The kingdom of God,” we are told in Scripture, is “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17; NKJV), not a bunch of corrupt politicians catering to the whims of greedy businessmen.    Biblically speaking, the United States, just like every other human society on the face of the earth, is a part of what the New Testament calls “the world” or “this age,” and in that sense any secular, human government will only be sub-Christian at best.  As Christians “our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 2:20).

That does not mean, however, that civil law can be separated from morality, or that a secular government is free to do whatever it pleases.  As human beings we were all created by God, we must all learn to function in a universe that was created by Him, and ultimately we are all accountable to Him.  In the Old Testament the Canaanites, who had no special covenant relationship with God at all, were nevertheless condemned for their sexual immorality and infanticide (Leviticus chapter 18), and in the New Testament book of Revelation “Babylon,” the symbol of worldly power, is criticized for its arrogance and sensuality (Rev. 18).  When governments engage in oppression and injustice they betray the whole reason for their very existence.

The Christian, then, lives in the world but is not really a part of it.  But that does not relieve us of our responsibility to our neighbors.  We are to “do good to all” (Gal. 6:10), pray for those in authority (I Tim. 2:1-4), and pay our taxes (Rom. 13:6,7); and yet all the while we are to keep ourselves “unspotted from the world” (Jas. 1:27).  The church’s job is to proclaim “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), which includes God’s moral standards for the human race.

Should we become involved in the political process, then?  In America we have been blessed to have a constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion, speech and assembly.  We have the right to vote and to elect our own political leaders.  It is certainly appropriate to write letters to our public officials and to the editors of our newspapers about issues that concern us.

Yet we must be careful about engaging in partisan politics.  “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.  For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness?  And what communion has light with darkness?” (II Cor. 6:14).  And yet the major political parties represent exactly that.  They are attempts to form electoral majorities for the purpose of taking over the government.  Each party inevitably contains a variety of special interest groups, each pursuing its own agenda.  And in many cases these agendas are far from righteous.  In some cases politicians can be downright corrupt.

In particular a Christian cannot vote for “the lesser of two evils” because that would still involve him in voting for evil, and that in turn would make the Christian complicit in the evil.  There comes a point at which the Christian must recognize that the world system is corrupt and that he is not to be a part of it.  It is no longer “God and country” but “God or country.”  What Christians are told in Revelation about Babylon is pertinent here as well: “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues” (Rev. 18:4).  America may very well have passed the point of no return with the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing same sex marriage.  Sodomy is now enshrined in the law of the land, and the decision makes it virtually impossible to return to the social norms, and the stable family life, of the past.  America may now be beyond redemption, and the current election campaign may very well be God’s righteous judgment upon the nation.  In situations like this, when the church finds itself in the midst of a wicked and corrupt society, it needs to be a prophetic “voice crying in the wilderness,” and speak truth to power.  But what it needs to speak, clearly and unequivocally, is truth, not the corrupt agenda of some crooked politician.  Voting for a seriously flawed candidate, no matter how bad the other candidate is, does not advance God’s kingdom.

AN EXAMPLE OF A REVIVAL

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Jonathan Edwards

We have been discussing the subject of revival and have examined a Scriptural passage (Jer. 29:11-13) that contains a promise for revival.  But what does one look like in real life?  What happens in a revival?

One historical example of a revival is the one that broke out in Northampton, MA during the winter of 1734-1735 under the ministry of Jonathan Edwards.  The town had experienced revivals before, but by 1730 there had arisen a new generation of young people who were as mischievous and spiritually careless as any generation before it.  Edwards worked to bring things under control, and to a large extent there was an improvement.  Then the sudden deaths of two young people in the spring of 1734 had a sobering effect on the entire community.

That fall Edwards proposed having the young people meet in small groups on Sunday evenings for their spiritual edification.  The practice was soon taken up by the adults as well.  In other words, the people were starting to seek after God, just as we have seen in the Book of Jeremiah.

It just so happened that at about that time a controversy arose over Arminianism, and Edwards was led to preach a series of sermons on the subject of justification by faith (Edwards was a staunch Calvinist).  It was a clear and forceful presentation of the gospel, and people began to respond.  The spiritual life of the community was deepened, conversions resulted, and the revival spread to neighboring towns.

What is significant about all of this is that people did not just add their names to the membership roll of the church.  There was a genuine interest in spiritual things.  “The only thing in their view was to get the kingdom of heaven, and everyone appeared to be pressing into it,” Edwards wrote (Works, 1:348).  The town was filled with joy; the public worship became alive.  “Our public assemblies were then beautiful: the congregation was alive to God’s service, everyone earnestly intent on the public worship, every hearer eager to drink in the words of the minister as they came from his mouth . . .”   Some were weeping in sorrow, while others wept for joy.

At the outset Edwards had preached a sermon entitled “A Divine and Supernatural Light, Immediately Imparted to the Soul by the Spirit of God, Shown to be both a Scriptural and Rational Doctrine.”  The title says it all.  The sermon explains the dynamic of a genuine spiritual experience.  Edwards tells us that the spiritual light consists of “a true sense of the divine and superlative excellency of the things of religion; a real sense of the excellency of God and Jesus Christ, and of the work of redemption, and the ways and works of God revealed in the gospel” (Works, 2.14).  He goes on to explain: the spiritually enlightened person “does not merely rationally believe that God is glorious, but he has a sense of the gloriousness of God in his heart.”  He points out that “there is a difference between having a rational judgment that honey is sweet, and having a sense of its sweetness.”  It is one thing to know about honey; it is another thing actually to have tasted it, and appreciate its taste.  And so it is with spiritual things.  “There is not only a rational belief that God is holy, and that holiness is a good thing, but there is a sense of the loveliness of God’s holiness.”

Edwards points out that this spiritual light is supernatural – it is something that is imparted to us by the Holy Spirit.  “. . .this light is immediately given by God, and not obtained by natural means.”  “The Holy Spirit operates in the minds of the godly, by uniting himself to them, and living in them, exerting his own nature in the exercise of their faculties” (p. 13).  Edwards is careful to emphasize that “This spiritual light is not the suggesting of any new truths or propositions not contained in the word of God.”  It “only gives a due apprehension of those things that are taught in the word of God” (p. 13).

And what are the effects of this spiritual enlightenment?  “This knowledge will wean from the world, and raise the inclination to heavenly things.  It will turn the heart to God as the fountain of good, and to choose him for the only portion” (p. 17).

This spiritual light also leads to a holy life.  “It shows God as worthy to be obeyed and served.  It draws forth the heart in a sincere love to God, which is the only principle of a true, gracious, and universal obedience; and it convinces of the reality of those glorious rewards that God has promised to them that obey him.”

And that is exactly what happened shortly afterwards at Northampton.  May it happen to us as well!

 

Note: All quotes of Jonathan Edwards are taken from the 1974 Banner of Truth edition of his Works.

WHAT IS A REVIVAL?

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George Whitefield

Today in Evangelical circles we sometimes hear people speak of a need for “revival.”  We witness some of the awful things going on in the world today, and we may have heard that in the past there were “revivals,” and we imagine that if only we had one today things would be better.  The problem: scarcely anyone alive today has any idea of what a revival is.

There actually were revivals in the past.  Probably the most famous one was the First Great Awakening during the 1730’s and ‘40’s, led by such figures as George Whitefield, the famous British evangelist, and Jonathan Edwards, the colonial theologian.  There was also a Second Great Awakening, which was actually a series of revivals that occurred during the early 19th Century.  And then there was the Great Prayer Revival of 1857-1858.

But what exactly were these “revivals”?  Strictly speaking, they were revivals of spiritual life within the churches.  Unfortunately it sometimes happens that churches fall into a pattern of spiritual apathy and decay.  The institutional life of the church goes forward: people continue to show up for services on Sunday morning, they follow a prescribed order of service, the pastor delivers his sermon.  But it is all largely a matter of form.  The problem is that it does not go beyond the outward form and activity, and the people are largely unmoved by what they see and hear.  And we have become so accustomed to this that we accept it as normal.

What is missing is God Himself.  There is little sense of His presence, and very little reverence, joy or love.  And aside from the formal worship service on Sunday morning there is little or no prayer at all, and sometimes even professing Christians are too willing to make ethical compromises in their business and personal relationships.  In other words, there is precious little spiritual life in the churches.

What we need to understand is that there is something seriously wrong with this picture.  In the Old Testament God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, put it this way.  Speaking of ancient Israel He said:

“. . .these people draw near with their mouths

And honor me with their lips,

But have removed their hearts far from Me,

And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment

of men. . .”

(Isa. 29:13: NKJV)

In other words, the people of Israel continued to maintain the outward forms of worship, but their heart was not in it.  And since God looks on the heart, He was not at all impressed by their half-hearted religiosity.

Israel, sadly, did not heed the warning, and was sent into exile as a result.  But then God made a promise to them: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all you heart” (Jer. 29:11-13).

There are several important things to notice about this passage.  First of all, there were to seek God – not an institution, not a system of theology, not a liturgy, but God Himself.  Secondly, they were to seek Him, to look for Him, to search until they found Him.  Our problem today is that we take God for granted – we just assume that He is there, even in the absence of any evidence that He is actively at work in our lives.  What we need to do is to look for Him, to make a conscious effort to find Him; and that entails prayer.  Without a prayer life there is no meaningful connection with God.  And it may also mean the confession of sin.

Thirdly, we must seek Him “with all our heart.”  God is not impressed with half-hearted or insincere attempts at formal “worship.”  The whole object of true religion is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Dt. 6:5).  Jesus said that this was “the first and great commandment” (Matt. 22:37,38).  If we fail here we have missed the whole point of Christianity.  Everything else we may think or do is utterly beside the point.

And, to return to Jeremiah 29, the promise is that if we earnestly seek God we will find Him.  Note: we will find Him – not just the church, not just the fellowship with other Christians, but find God Himself.  And to find God is to be overawed and overjoyed at the same time.  We sense that we are in the presence of God, on holy ground, and nothing else matters.  Everything else is subordinate to knowing God Himself.

It is generally acknowledged that our country is in awful shape today.  But what is not so widely recognized is that it is the church that needs revival.  Sadly, today, most Evangelical Christians think that the Church of Laodicea, described in Rev. 3:14-22, is normal, because it is the only church they have ever known.  They can scarcely imagine anything else.  May God have mercy on His church and revive it in the midst of years!  How desperately we need a genuine spiritual awakening!

AND THE DEMOCRATS?

          Recently I received criticism from some Facebook friends over my last blog post, entitled “America’s Broken Covenant with God.”  The criticisms centered around the fact that in the opening paragraph I appeared to be criticizing the Republican Party, but said nothing about the Democrats.  Did I honestly think that the Democrats were free of blame for the current mess we’re in?

In this highly charged political atmosphere it is a matter of “be careful, little tongue, what you say.”  But my intention was not to criticize any particular political party.  Rather, it was to draw attention to the fact that there is an oath contained in the Declaration of Independence, and that that oath obligated us to do something.  We, collectively as a nation, have failed to honor our sworn obligation.  I also pointed out, at least indirectly, that the critical decisions affecting our daily lives are often made by the U.S. Supreme Court, not elected politicians.   The Regents’ Prayer Case was decided in 1962.  Eight presidents have come and gone since then, Republican and Democrat alike; and yet the Court’s decision still stands, and we live in a radically secularized culture as a result.

There is a political process, however, and it does involve political parties.  And in the “culture wars” of the past forty or fifty years the Democratic Party has played a conspicuous role.  It has been at the forefront in attacking Judeo-Christian morality, and it is hard to exonerate it from guilt in all the adverse cultural changes that have taken place during that period.  It is a sorry chapter in American history.

At first it was somewhat understandable.  The Civil Rights struggle of the early ‘60’s exposed the racial injustice in the nation.  Then came the controversial Viet Nam War that inspired massive anti-war protests.  The manifold injustices of American were patent; the calls for reform were urgent.

There was, however, a huge problem.  While it was obvious what was wrong in America, it was not so obvious how to make it right.  The problem, in a nutshell, was secularism.  Most of the protest demonstrations took place on the campuses of large state universities, and the educational programs of these universities were largely secular.  A protest against injustice necessarily involves a value system.  But what was the value system, and where did it come from?  The problem with the “Movement” of the ‘60’s was that it was not rooted in any well-defined system of morality.  Everyone was quick to say what was false; but no one could say what was true.

Some intellectuals turned to the writings of the Existentialist philosophers such as Sartre or Camus.  Others turned to Neo-Marxists such as Fromm or Marcuse.  But all of these were secular authors, and most of them were frankly atheists.

Matters came to a head in the summer of 1968.  Lyndon Johnson had been in office for five years, and even though he had signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and had launched the War on Poverty, his reputation was severely damaged by the War in Viet Nam.  Johnson announced that he would not seek reelection; Vice-President Hubert Humphrey became his heir-apparent as the establishment candidate.  Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were both assassinated.  Race riots filled the streets.  The Democrats that year held their convention in Chicago.  Outside there were violent confrontations between protesters and police.  Humphrey won the nomination but went on to lose the election to Richard M. Nixon.

The nation was bitterly divided, and a whole generation of young people came to reject the values of their parents.  The women’s movement gained momentum.  And the Democratic Party underwent a transformation.  Previously controlled by career politicians, most of them white men, it was now taken over by the younger activists.  In 1972 the party nominated George McGovern with the support of the young activists.  McGovern lost the election, but the “New Democrats” remained in control of the party.

Much of the ideology of the “liberal” or “progressive” Democrats is driven by radical feminism.  It is rooted in an Existentialist philosophy that says that we exist as concrete, autonomous individuals and should be free to define our own “essence,” or self-identity.  For a woman that means that she should not have to conform to a gender role imposed on her by society.  “Women’s Liberation” means freedom from external constraints, and “reproductive freedom” means freedom to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

But what is good for the goose is good for the gander.  By logical extension shouldn’t all human beings be free to define themselves as they wish?  What about homosexuals?  What about transgender people?  What about the husband who just wants to watch football on TV and drink beer all day long, and let his wife do the dishes?  And who should have to stay married if someone younger and better looking comes along?  Shouldn’t we each be allowed to pursue our own self-destiny?  If all the different life-styles should be treated equally and without discrimination, who is required to do anything?  And so today we have men married to men, women in combat roles in the military, and self-identified transgender people free to use the public restrooms of their choice.

The agenda of the modern Democratic Party, however, is unsustainable.  It is based on false premises, viz., that there are no innate psychological differences between men and women, and that homosexuals are just born that way.  And it leads to disastrous results: social chaos.  Human society functions on a male / female dynamic. When that dynamic breaks down, human society ceases to function.  In the absence of social norms, civilization collapses.  What we are witnessing today is nothing less than the self-destruction of Western society.

Most of the destructive ideas that have eroded the stability of American society in recent decades have come from the New Left and the counter-culture of the ‘60’s, and have been introduced into the mainstream of American life through the Democratic Party.  Frankly, what the Democratic Party has to offer the American people is nothing less than downright nihilism, and eventually it will lead to an authoritarian reaction.  We shudder to think of what that might be.  As Cicero one said during the declining years of the Roman republic, “O tempora, O mores!” (“Oh the times, oh the manners!”).

AMERICA’S BROKEN COVENANT WITH GOD

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Today is the day, of course, when we celebrate the formal adoption of the Declaration of Independence.  And yet this year it comes at a troublesome moment in American politics.  In just a few weeks the Republican and Democratic parties will be holding their national conventions.  The Republican Party is poised to nominate a demagogue as its candidate for president, the streets are likely to be filled with violent protests, and the Republican Party may very well self-destruct.  This, coupled with the chronic social and economic problems that have increasingly plagued the nation bodes ill for the future of the republic.  What many of us have taken for granted as the American way of life seems to be coming to an end.

Our end is just.  What many do not realize is that when we declared our independence form Great Britain we entered into a tacit covenant with God.  Almost everyone is familiar with the first two paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence.  Almost no one has read the last paragraph.  There, after having stated the basic principles of government and delineated King George’s “long train of abuses and usurpations,” the Declaration went on to state that the Continental Congress, “appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions,” declares our independence.  It then concludes by saying, “And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

The statement, “appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions,” amounts to an oath.  It fits the definition in the Westminster Confession of Faith of a “lawful oath”: “. . .the person swearing solemnly calleth God to witness what he asserteth, or promiseth, and to judge him according to the truth or falsehood of what he sweareth” (WCF, XXII.1).  By “appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world” we were doing exactly that.

But what did we assert or promise?  The Declaration says that we are appealing to God “for the rectitude of our intentions.”  We are calling God to witness that our intentions were right and proper.  What is implied in this is that 1) the reasons stated in the Declaration are the real reasons we were declaring our independence; and 2) those reasons were right and proper, i.e., they were in accord with “the laws of nature and of nature’s God.”  That means that if we succeeded in winning our independence we would proceed to establish a government that would secure “the unalienable rights” of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

To achieve these ends we proposed to fight “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.”  We were, in effect, asking God to give us victory on the condition that we were acting in good faith to achieve the ends stated in the Declaration.  In other words, we had entered into a tacit covenant with God – we swore to create a government that would respect people’s rights in return for God giving us the victory.

And God did indeed give us victory.  No less than Benjamin Franklin could acknowledge at the Constitutional Convention several years later that during the War for Independence, “we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection,” and that “all of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor” (Madison’s Notes, June 28, 1787).  We won our independence having fought the greatest military power on earth at the time.

And yet we did not live up to our end of the covenant.  In spite of having declared that “all men are created equal,” and are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” we failed to apply that principle to African-Americans. After years of controversy over the slavery issue the U.S. Supreme Court tried to settle the issue once and for all in its decision in the Dred Scott case of 1857.  Writing for the majority Chief Justice Roger B. Taney went so far as to assert that African-Americans were not included in the “all men” who were “created equal,” and that “they had no rights which a white man was bound to respect.”  It was a clear and direct violation of the covenant, and God’s judgment was not long in coming.  Within four years America was engulfed in a bloody Civil War in which a total of 620,000 soldiers on both sides lost their lives.  Near the end of the war President Lincoln could proclaim, “Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away.  Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, ‘The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’” (Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865).

And yet today we have gone one step even further.  In 1962 the Supreme Court handed down another decision with disastrous consequences.  This was the case of Engel v. Vitale, the New York Regents’ Prayer Case.  The New York State Board of Regents had composed a brief prayer to be recited in public school classrooms.  The prayer read as follows: “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country.”  The prayer was brief, non-sectarian, and strictly voluntary.  Nevertheless the Court ruled that it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Admittedly there is a difficult church / state issue involved in having a prayer composed by a government agency recited in a public school classroom.  In fact, the question might be raised as to how the state can conduct a program of public education without getting entangled in religious and moral issues.  Such a program of education will either have to be implicitly atheistic or else amount to little more than vocational training.  But in this case the Court’s decision had the practical effect of abolishing even the most rudimentary forms of civil religion, and making the government, for all practical purposes, atheistic.  The government, as the government, could no longer recognize the existence of God at all, let alone acknowledge a covenant with Him.  This was not simply another breach of the covenant; it abrogated the covenant altogether.

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7).  Again, the judgment of God was not long in coming.  Within just a few short years President Kennedy was assassinated, the U.S. became mired in a no-win war in Viet Nam, our cities were torn apart by race riots, and the nation’s youth turned to drugs and promiscuous sex.

God had indeed withheld His blessings from America’s educational system.  A whole generation was given a thoroughly secularized education, and the foundations of public morality were eroded.  “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful . . .wherefore God also gave them up . . .” (Rom. 1:21-24).  Today we have legalized abortion (another violation of the covenant), a high divorce rate, single-parent families, same sex marriage, openly practicing homosexuals in the military, women in combat roles, and “transgender” people free to use the public restrooms of their choice.  Mass murders have become more frequent, and once again we are facing a drug epidemic.  It is hard to imagine a society more dysfunctional than ours, and it is a sure prescription for an authoritarian government.

President Lincoln was certainly right when he quoted in Psalm 19:9 in his Second Inaugural: “. . .the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”