Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Do Christian Civil Governments Lead to the Persecution of Unbelievers?

Contrary to religious pluralism, the Bible gives us the
authority to oppose torture and other heinous practices
that are supported by non-Christian religions.

by Rev. Brian Schwertley

(The following is an excerpt from the section, "Objections," in  Political Polytheism by Brian Schwertley)

A common objection is that the establishment of biblical Christianity will lead to the persecution of unbelievers. This objection is used to bring to mind a type of Christian dictatorship where atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, and Moslems are rounded up in the middle of the night and shot by a “Christian” gestapo or KGB. This image is totally false for a number of reasons. 

First, keep in mind that a Christian civil government does not come into being through a revolution or physical violence. A nation will not become Christian until the majority of the people are converted to Christ. This may be centuries in the future. Becoming a Christian nation is a bottom up not a top down affair. Rushdoony writes: 
The key is regeneration, propagation of the gospel, and the conversion of men and nations to God’s law-word. Meanwhile, the existing law-order must be respected, and neighboring law-orders must be respected as far as is possible without offense to one’s own faith.[1]
Second, in a Christian state (as noted earlier) it is not illegal to be an unbeliever. One can be an atheist, animist, Hindu or anything one pleases. Personal belief and private practice are not civil crimes. It is the propagation and public practice of heathenism that is a civil crime according to biblical law (cf. Dt. 13:1-18, 17:2-7). 

Third, some type of state persecution or intolerance toward religious practices is unavoidable and inevitable in every nation, even in secular pluralistic states. The United States does not presently permit human sacrifice or torture in religious rites. It does not permit the use of illegal drugs in “native American” religious rituals. Religious prostitution and child molestation also are not permitted. The point is that civil law must forbid certain religious practices. How are civil magistrates to determine what is and is not permitted in their country? The only infallible, objective, absolutely moral guide for civil magistrates to decide these matters is the Bible. All civil laws are based on concepts of morality derived from religious or philosophical presuppositions. The only reason that America’s present laws are as good as they are is because of our Christian roots. Will Christians still be in favor of religious pluralism when the state legalizes homosexual marriage, polygamy, drug use in sorcery and witchcraft, ritual sex orgies, etc.? 

Fourth, on what basis can political polytheists condemn Christian civil magistrates for doing exactly what the Bible tells them they should do? Since the Bible cannot contradict itself, political polytheists can only condemn obedient Christian civil magistrates on the basis of a non-biblical philosophy or worldview. This is exactly what pluralists do. A Christian scholar in favor of “principled pluralism” wrote: 
We cannot move directly from the text of the Bible to political theory.... The case for principled pluralism is based neither on a pietist hermeneutic nor on a proof-texting approach to Scripture.... The case for principled pluralism rests on the conviction that the order of society points responsively to an ultimate normative order beyond itself as the source and criterion of its meaning.[2]
There is no other “ultimate normative order beyond itself” except the Bible.


[1]  R. J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1977 [1973]), p. 113-114. “Politics is the ‘quick fix’ approach to cultural transformation. ‘The presidential election will turn the tide. A change in the Supreme Court will bring our nation back to righteousness. If we could only get more conservatives in office.’ None of this will do it. Only a long-term effort to change all facets of society will bring about significant and lasting transformation. This means changing the hearts and minds of millions of people” (Gary DeMar and Peter Leithart, The Reduction of ChristianityA Biblical Response to Dave Hunt, [Ft. Worth, TX: Dominion Press, 1988] p. 297). [Editor's disclaimer: we reject Peter Leithart's Federal Vision theology.]

[2] Gordon J. Spykman, “The Principled Pluralist Position” in Gary Scott ed., God and Politics: Four Views on the Reformation of Civil Government (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1989), pp. 78, 82, 83. “Ironically, Spykman rejects natural law, yet he also denies that Old Testament laws provide the required content of these definition-less ‘creature ordinances.’ This leaves everything conveniently open-ended. That is the heart and soul of neo-evangelicalism: intellectually and morally open-ended. T. M. Moore is correct: ‘Ultimately, Spykman exalts God’s revelation in nature above the Bible. He insists that the meaning of Scripture can only be unlocked by first understanding the meaning of God’s Word inherent in the creational norms around us.’ ‘The Christian Response to Principled Pluralism,’ Ibid., p. 110” (Gary North, Political Polytheism: The Myth of Pluralism, p. 16, footnote 46.)


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