Faith and Reason

Can People Imputed With Christ's Righteousness Change the World?


People's eternal hope is for a better existence. Jesus Christ, the hope to improve peoples' existence, came instead to offer people salvation. For people to improve their existence they need an absolutely moral behavior based on the precondition of religion. Such morality is essential to developing high character, without which leaders cannot improve human conditions. Dependence on rationality and reason for laws to control human behavior underlies that failure. Human character determines mankind's destiny. Human conditions improve when people follow Jesus' commands to obey the first two commandments and the Great Commission. Efforts of Jesus' followers are fruitless in writing laws in stone to control human behavior. Jesus tells us that all laws are fulfilled in the first two commandments and they should be written in peoples' hearts. Human existence will improve when all people learn and accept that by becoming followers of Jesus.

The human condition is imperfect but people have always been optimistic that it can be improved. They long for improvements to change both humanity and its sphere of existence.

Christianity and other world-religions are aware of man's alienation, corruptibility, need of redemption. They all know about man's ignorance, loneliness, fleeting existence, depravity, enslavement, fear, anxiety, greed, egocentricity, deceptions, suffering, misery, and sense of death. They long for a new freedom, enlightenment, transformation, knowledge, rebirth, liberation, and redemption for human beings.1

Improvement can possibly result from actions of human beings alone, human beings with the help of God, or by God alone, depending on a person's beliefs. Many believe that humans improve through a God-unassisted and continuous process that leads to a liberation of goodness and nobility latent in people. For others improvement is possible when religion's ethical truths are universally practiced and significance is realized for every individual.
For followers of Jesus Christ, man-centered approaches relying on God's help must be based on New Testament recordings of the Messiah Jesus Christ's life and teachings on how we are to follow Him. For many followers, Jesus Christ was the long-expected Messiah who came to change the world.
Jesus did not come to change the world, however, He came to offer human beings redemption. Jesus gave all believers a mandate, the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20) which says nothing about changing the world. Jesus commands believers to show unbelievers that they can find salvation and eternal life by becoming His followers.

Jesus Christ Changing the World

Jesus--What Kind of Messiah?

The Bible is clear on whether Jesus Christ came as a messianic leader who would use political or military coercion to change the world. The goals of such leaders are always very apparent. Jesus was never a militant or political leader.
Most people seeking the Messiah expected a king and Jesus satisfied them by saying: "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."(John 18:37). The belief in Jesus as a king began with the wise men who came asking: "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?" (Matthew 2:2). His coming fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah who wrote: "See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation . . . "(Zech 9:9). Others proclaimed Jesus to be the Messiah and king: "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel." (John 1:49). When asked by Pilate, Jesus acknowledged that He was the king of the Jews (Matt. 27:11). The people joyfully praised God for Jesus' miracles and proclaimed: "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!" (Luke 19:38, John 12:13).
Jesus resisted all attempts to make Him a secular king. John 6:15 tells us: "Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew to a mountain by himself." Until this hour, Jesus had restrained all public demonstrations from the multitude and attempts to honor Him in spectacular ways. However, now His appointed hour had come and He had to enter Jerusalem as Messiah, according to prophecy (Psalm 118:25-26). The news that Jesus was leaving Bethany for Jerusalem spread rapidly so that people flocked out of Jerusalem to join the multitudes accompanying Him (John 12:12, 17, 18). People proclaimed: "Hosanna, blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord!" This was a fulfillment of prophecy even to the day. The people who shouted these words intended to honor Jesus as their King, but they were still ignorant of His true Person and His true mission. To most of them, He represented the long-awaited earthly king, a powerful political leader who would bring world superiority to Israel and overthrow the hated Roman army of occupation. Later when they saw him bound, beaten and helpless these people changed and could not believe that Jesus could be the Messiah but was simply an imposter. On seeing that Jesus was not a Messiah who would change the world, people accused Jesus of falsehoods (Luke 23:2). They further mocked Him by telling Him: "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself." (Luke 23:37-38).
Jesus was indeed a king but not of this world. He tells us that "My kingdom is not of this world . . . " (John 18:36). Scriptures do not state that Jesus did not come into the world to change it. That is understood, however, on what Jesus did and said. When He prays to the Father He does not pray to change the world: "I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours" (John 17: 9). He also prays for his followers so the Father will: "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world" (John 17:17).

Jesus Changing Peoples' Hearts

Scriptures tell us why God sent Jesus to the world. "For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him" (John 17:2). And before leaving the world Jesus said: "I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do" (John 17:4). God's plans were not for Jesus to change the world but for Him to change people so that they could know and follow God's truth. "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners . . . " (1Tim 1:15). Jesus Christ came to change people's hearts, not the world. Paul told people to follow Christ and not the ways of the world: "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will" (Romans 12:2). In contrast, the pattern of this world is to use man's wisdom for making changes.
Jesus tells us that the world is under control of Satan who would want no changes for improving the human condition. In 1John 5:19 it is written: "We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one." If God wanted to have Jesus change the world, He would have done that, a change requiring Jesus to take the world's control away from Satan. It would be hard to change a world still under dominion of this evil one. If Jesus was sent to change the world He would first have to condemn it, but as is shown in John 3:17 "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him" and in John 12:47 "As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it." When God chooses to change the world, it will be judged and Satan will be cast out (John 12:31).
Jesus Christ's followers are hated today because the evil one is still in control. In 1John 3:13 we read: "Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you." Attempts by Jesus' followers to change the world are met with hateful reactions. Rather than trying to change the world, we are taught to overcome the world. In 1John 5:4-5 we learn that everyone born of God and who believes in Jesus Christ overcomes the world. We cannot overcome the world by changing laws or with better governments.
God did not show his love for us by teaching us how to change the world in order to make it a better place to live. We can read the Scriptures in 1John 4: 9 to learn that: "This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him." God does not enable us to change the world but tells us to become like Jesus as 1John 4:17 tells us: "In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him." Christ came into this world as Savior (John 3: 42) so we could become like him, not so we could change the world.
Human beings still work to change the world. People cannot judge things in this world and change them until they find truth, however, and truth can come only from God; Jesus shows us the way to God's truth. But Jesus is not really concerned about people following His truths to change the world because He tells us: "As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day" (John 12:47). The words Jesus wants us to accept are those for our salvation not any for changing the world. With salvation we can overcome the world ( John 16:33) and not be condemned with the prince of this world (John 16:11). Jesus came to redeem (yes, change) people, not to change the world, and He knew that redemption of human beings could only be accomplished through His death, resurrection, ascension, and sending of the Holy Spirit to lead believers thereafter.

Jesus' Commands

Jesus tells us to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matt 6:33), follow Him, deny ourselves, and take up His cross (Matt 4:19, 8:22, 16:24, 19:21, Mark 1:17). He tells us to take on His burden to build God's kingdom of believers (Matt 11:29). Jesus tells us to let our light shine before men, that they may see our good deeds and praise our Father in heaven (Matt 5:16) and to be a great witness for our families (Mark 5:19, Luke 8:39).
We are admonished to not store up for ourselves treasures on earth (Matt 6:19) but sell what we have and give money to the poor (Matt 19:21, Luke 12:32), be generous to the poor (Luke 11:41), feed the hungry (6:37) and share our lives with the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind (Luke 14:13). We are told to be on guard against greed and accumulation of abundant possessions (Luke 12:15). We are not to worry about having our needs provided (Luke 12:11, 12:22, 12:29, 12:32) and to humbly serve our fellow human beings (John 13:14).
We are told to sin no more (John 8:11) and are ordered not to judge, or we too will be judged (Matt 7:1, Luke 6:37). But we are not to ignore sins of our brother but call them to his attention and forgive him (Luke 17:3). Jesus tells all of us to obey God's laws and to not commit adultery, steal, and lie, but to honor our father and mother, and love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt 19:18, John 15:12). He tells us to obey God's laws preached by human beings but not to blindly follow the example of these preachers (Matt 23:3).
Jesus tells us to be discerning in what holy things we give to unholy people or nonbelievers who will distort and trample God's truths (Matt 7:6) and He tells us to watch out for false teachers and prophets (Matt 7:15, 16:6, 24:4, Mark 13:5). Jesus tells us to instruct people on the Gospel but if anyone does not welcome or listen to our words, He tells us to not force anything on others but to leave and move on to share the good news with others (Matt 10:14, Mark 6:11, Luke 9:5). Jesus cautions us to be on our guard against men who are waiting to bring us harm and ridicule (Matt 10:17).
Jesus commands us to not look down on little children, ones who are precious to Him (Matt 18:10). He tells us to give governments what belongs to them and to God what belongs to Him (Matt 22:21). He commands us to not draw weapons against others, or we will die by them (Matt 26:52).
We are to trust the Lord (John 12:35). Jesus tells us to be ready for His coming (Matt 24:44, 25:13). He commands us to be alert and pray (Matt 26:41, Luke 21:34, 22:40, 22:46) and to fear Satan (12:5).
Jesus commands us to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matt 22:37); that love must also include forgiving anyone we hold anything against (Mark 11:25) and love for our enemies (Luke 6:26). His greatest command is the great commission where Jesus tells us to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and then teach these converts all the commands He has given us (Matt 28:19, Mark 16:15).
None of the commands that Jesus taught the disciples were to change the world. All of Jesus' teachings were to change human beliefs, thoughts and behavior. Changing the world is a man made mission not Jesus' mission.

Human Efforts to Change Lives

Religion, An Essential Need

Secular laws, proclamations, pleadings, studies, conferences, and other means to control or change the world, essentially human behavior, are empty unless they are based on religion that believes in God's laws.

There is no unconditional, absolute obligation to a particular form of behavior without acceptance of an unconditional, of an absolute. No universally binding obligation without acceptance of a universally valid binding authority. This means that there is no absolutely moral behavior, no universally binding ethos without the precondition of religion.2

Without this absolutely moral behavior that is a goal of the Great Commission for all human beings, no one can effectively change the world. This belief is not widely held, however. Many believe in another authority for morality.
Moral is defined as "relating to, dealing with, or capable of making the distinction between right and wrong in conduct." With or without religion who is to define what is right and wrong conduct? The Book of Proverbs tells us "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes." Hence, any individual or group can establish its own morality; religious truths are not necessary for defining moral behavior. With religious truths discarded, atheists and agnostics define morality as merely that which benefits humanity. These and other people denying a religious basis for morality may claim that rules of morality came about naturalistically during development of human societies. They believe in a naturalistic morality that rests on three social and biological foundations. They include genetics, the selection over time of genes that foster certain group values; written law codifying rules to regulate living groups; and ethical values, customs and mores that naturally arise to enable people to live in harmony.3 This belief gives evolution much credit for the development of morals. Many also continue to believe in Aristotle's observations that good conduct and good character develop and persist by human reasoning and as a product of habit. When moral behavior is strongly believed to develop from these foundations, it is unlikely that religion will significantly influence human behavior.

Theocracies to Change the World

People empower government to define morality based on religion in a theocracy. A theocracy rules under the direction of God Himself where the nation is in all things subject to the will of its invisible King. All people are servants of God who rules over all their public and private affairs through His regent leading them on earth. In some theocracies religious leaders exercise all power over human behavior and little evidence of personal rights and freedom is evident. This form of rule has supported some of the worst tyrannies in history and rarely lasts. The Lord certainly directs each one of us to follow Him and His laws. He does not tell us to enact secular laws to enforce His commandments. Secular laws require judgment and punishment now, not in the afterlife. God judges and determines punishment for anyone breaking His commandments, something human beings cannot do. Theocracys' leaders assume this role, however.
For centuries the Israelis lived in a theocracy having more than 600 laws to control human behavior. Their religious leaders were judges and mediators of punishment for violating these laws. Jesus did not come to abolish the Law that Jewish people had always struggled to obey. He came to be completely obedient to God which did not require a person to know and follow more than 600 laws. Jesus tells us to obey God's most important laws, the first two Commandments, to love God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Everything follows from these. All Hebrew ritual laws were "done away in Christ," for His sacrifice replaced any need for these laws.
Theocratic or any other secular leaders are not equipped or "chosen" to legislate morality. Only believers, not government leaders, can lead people into truly moral behavior that comes only from God and who instructs us in how it is to be done. In Genesis 18:19 God tells us: "For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him."If religious organizations realize that this is their prerogative they would stop trying to promote governmental legislation to author and control morality. Religious leaders should devote all their efforts to showing people that they need to gain righteousness by strengthening their faith in God and in all that He is. What is faith?

...faith is that attitude in which, acknowledging our complete insufficiency for any of the high ends of life, we rely utterly on the sufficiency of God. It is to cease from all assertion of the self, even by way of effort after righteousness, and to make room for the divine initiative . . . 4

We do not rely on the sufficiency of the individual self or collectively on the government. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the directive for establishing an individual morality out of which can come a national morality.
As Paul reminds us, the Gospel is power, the power of God that lifts people up and gives believers' Christ's righteousness that equips them for living His morality.5 No human works can gain this righteousness; no laws enacted by human beings can produce moral behavior. It can only come from Christ.

Separation of Church and State

In the United States the strongly protected separation of church and state now discourages passage of laws with a religious basis for determining acceptable human behavior. Laws regulating human behavior must develop from public dialogue that is secular and bounded by requirements of rationality and reason. Secular institutions are empowered to define moral behavior for improving the world. Because such laws cannot be based on religion's universally binding ethos, they cannot develop or enforce absolutely moral behavior, however.
The standards for moral conduct in Western societies are relative and in constant flux, being determined by consensus. Public opinion can change a consensus daily. The western culture is witnessing an evolutionary regression of moral behavior where a consensus now justifies killing of the unborn by abortion and the euthanasia of elderly no longer useful to society.
With many Americans believing they are the most moral people on earth, they work to maintain the separation of church and state to prevent any religion's morality from being forced on others. Tocqueville believed, however, that "support given by religion to virtuous standards of behavior was indispensable for the preservation of liberty."6 Religions provided Americans with the strong moral character without which democracy cannot function . . . when people relied upon the state to solve all problems, they lost their liberty.6 American governments have tried and failed to establish standards for human behavior, for moral character.7

Religion's Role in Society 8

In order to preserve liberty, religion must remain a public witness to moral evil, influence policy when it can, and be active in civil disobedience where it is called for, but at the same time religion must preserve that autonomy of perspective that makes it an independent force in the world, one that is lost by marriage of a religion's moral agenda with a political party's political agenda. Religion then abdicates its role and leaves secular governments free reins to dictate moral authority. When religion does not remain independent of the world or state and accommodates itself to policies governments prefer, religion loses any influence and ability to be an independent moral voice for evaluating a government's activities. The more religion influences secular powers to legally impose peoples' "moral judgments" on others, the less likely religion will discover meanings that disagree with the state.
For religion to be an independent force it cannot give in to the temptation to seize and hold secular power. People must maintain their faith in the belief that God, not secular power, is the only source of all reality. But government claims the right to establish reality, based on beliefs that its dialogues employing rationality and reason, and supported by scientific methods, are the only means for describing reality. A tyranny of experts rules where knowledge is the key to power and reality is defined by simple and tyrannical majoritarianism, by the prevailing consensus. Reality cannot be established by religion where there is separation of church and state and where reason and science are held to be superior for understanding reality. Although people possess enormous knowledge, they understand reality poorly. Reality's understanding must give answers to whom we are, why we are here, and where do we go after our existence on earth. No secular arguments answer these questions.
We find our existences' reality in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The heart of the Gospel is one great command Jesus told human beings to follow: "‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as your self.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matt. 22:37-40) The Christian call is to live our lives, as best we can, in the image of Jesus Christ. The foundation for all absolutely moral behavior is found in these commandments. No others are needed! By that, religion is recognized as the first political institution . . . in communities of religion people learn the habits and acts of life together.9 The moral sensibilities of all people, unbelievers as well as believers, come from religion and they form the glue for democracy.

Politics is in largest part the function of culture, and at the heart of culture is morality, and at the heart of morality is religion. When this maxim is forgotten, democracy understood as majority rule results in the death of democracy.10

Can we continue to be governed by our Constitution if Americans decide to give up its religion-dictated moral basis?

Government Establishing Morality

John Adams, one of the founders of our democracy said:

We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.11

John Adams did not say that our constitution would make people moral and religious. He said our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. Enacting laws to control human behavior attempts to make Americans moral and religious, something beyond the ability of our constitution.
Conventional wisdom suggests that a sound moral foundation to people's lives is the best insurance for a nation's long-term survival. A society's destiny is found in the character of its leaders and people. That character is a reflection of their morals, a morality that does not appear because of human or natural laws but out of obedience to God's laws.

Tolerance, Consensus, and Compromise

Society desires lasting values for its members. In America values must be limited, however, to those for which society holds no disagreement. Such values are certain to represent a morality devoid of meaning, significance and authority. The overriding "no disagreement" requires that everyone's beliefs must be tolerated. Toleration is claimed to show commitment to the Second Commandment to love one's neighbor as oneself. People support toleration using secular and religious arguments for fighting hate and violence. Seeking toleration is no solution, however, because it does no more than allow someone to exist with their beliefs--but one may exist and still be oppressed. Tolerance for another's ways is no more than a truce where hatreds persist, and when the truce is broken, hatreds' manifestations of strife reappear. Secular approaches do not eliminate hate. Secular approaches to seek or teach tolerance fail because tolerance establishes no values. The value of loving one's neighbor as oneself is not established with the acceptance of toleration. Toleration is a moral virtue by consensus in our democracy. Toleration supported by consensus allows wrongs to persist, however.
Jesus Christ's foundation for moral behavior moved Americans to defy the prevailing consensus in order to abolish slavery, enact suffrage for women, and guarantee civil rights for everyone. Did some groups thereby force "their" morality on others? Some believe that they did. What was "forced" on others was not peoples' morality arising from wisdom, reason and rationality but God's morality found in the commandments ordered by Jesus Christ for us to follow.
In our democracy laws are enacted by compromise. Thus, followers of Jesus must compromise to incorporate their moral judgments in secular laws. With compromise such laws no longer reflect God's laws; He does not offer ways to compromise His laws. Rather than compromising God's laws to pass secular laws Jesus' followers should instead remain uncompromising, external moral critics and maintain the only true source of values and meaning than enter into making secular laws and lose their identity in the process. Until Jesus Christ returns and establishes God's kingdom, His followers must struggle to maintain the tension between meanings and understandings propounded by the state and the very different set of meanings and understandings established by our Creator.
God tells us that he does not tolerate sin but hates it. God also tells us that He is unchanging and His laws do not change with a consensus of public opinion. He also shows us that people cannot compromise His laws; they are everlasting and represent the only reality.

Rendering Unto Caesar--Rendering unto God

American government and the laws establishing it has a heritage in Roman law that is described as "one of our supreme inheritances from the ancient world; the Romans created the greatest system of law in history . . . "12 and in religion, with religion being absolutely essential for our democracy (according to Tocqueville).
Romans developed law to rule its empire of many nations. This "Law of the Nations" was described by some as the "Law of Nature" that was held to be a universal, unchanging, and everlasting system of reason, a logic and order in all things, all in agreement with nature. Cicero put it this way:

True law is right reason in agreement with nature, world-wide in scope, unchanging, everlasting . . . We may not oppose or alter that law, we cannot abolish it, we cannot be freed from its obligations by any legislature, and we need not look outside ourselves for an expounder of it. This law does not differ for Rome and for Athens, for the present and for the future; ...it is and will be valid for all nations and all times . . . He who disobeys it denies himself and his own nature.13

Some believe the U. S. Constitution is also based on the "Law of Nature" by a god who is subordinate to nature, a nature subject to conquest by man. Stevens writes: "Our political institutions do not arise from nor are they grounded in religion. The God of the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence is nature's God."14 Also this is not the Christian god but "a god subordinate to nature, subordinate to a nature subject to conquest by man . . . "15 But Constitutional framers did not minimize the need for religion in basing the document's laws on natural law coming from a god subordinate to nature and that law being subject to man's reason: "...the Founders understood the need for government support of religion precisely because of the government's need for those qualities in a republican citizenry that depend in the first instance on religion."16 Thus, there is a basis for the idea that " the province of priests and province of rulers are not simply separable, that there is a connection between piety and magistracy that cannot be severed."17 Thus, what John Adams said in his belief that our constitution was made only for (and is dependent on) a moral and religious people is reaffirmed.
The framers were concerned that a constitution based on the God of Christianity rather than nature's god could result in a theocracy. Our constitution was to insure the freedom of religion from any political order which requires the freedom of political order from religion. That does not prohibit virtue or piety or their influence on public policy. The Constitution permits religion to be rendered useful but harmless.

Berns argues that the coming into being of modern free government is dependent on the solution of the religious problem. That solution consists in rendering religion useful but harmless. For religion to be useful it must be encouraged but free. For it to be harmless, the political order must be set altogether free of it. The political utility of religion lies in its capacity to instill in the citizenry, as a liberal-democratic political order in and of itself cannot instill, the moral character on which the liberal democracy depends. Liberal democracy is necessarily parasitic in this respect. Religious belief is, as Tocqueville put it, democracy's "most precious bequest of aristocratic ages."18

Religious belief must remain the precious treasure that insures our democracy and the citizens' moral character on which it depends. Even when rendered harmless, religion can continue to enable the development of high and noble human character.

A Constitution for Enabling Rather Than Controlling

Laws enacted by governments for controlling human behavior are relatively ineffective. Our constitution is not designed for enacting laws to control human behavior by limiting human freedom and rights. The Constitution is for enabling and insuring the best possible conditions for American citizens and noncitizens:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.19

The constitution was written by individuals who began their ideas on governing in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.20

A more perfect Union cannot interfere with peoples' unalienable rights. Establishing Justice is for society to be just and fair. Domestic Tranquility is insured by laws to punish offenders who trample others' unalienable rights. The government defends against internal strife and invasion from without. The government promotes general Welfare with help for people who cannot survive on their own, something that enables many people to pursue Happiness.

Sustaining Democracy

Our democracy's survival being dependent on a moral and religious citizenry was cited earlier as a belief of John Adams and is continued to be voiced:

...Politics is in largest part the function of culture, and at the heart of culture is morality, and at the heart of morality is religion.21

Religion can continue to be the essential foundation for our democracy. Many believe that our democracy's basis should be maintained by laws embodying religious beliefs. But the voice of religion is suspected by others of establishing its own agenda in governmental activities. Religious groups as well as secular groups express this fear and the latter oppose the influence of religion by arguing for separation of church and state. Some denominations of Christians are fearful of any government leader belonging to another denomination. Such distrust appeared for John F. Kennedy when he ran for president in 1960 and he answered with:

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish--where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source--where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials--and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all."22

This wisdom should guide us today. Jesus Christ did not ask us to direct public policy but to tell people about His Good News. Religious groups may be criticized when their messages are to promote a certain public policy rather than what Jesus called them to do.
Religion can most effectively persist as the essential foundation of our democracy by obeying Jesus Christ's orders. He commands us to us to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matt 22:37). Jesus also tells us to be part of the Great Commission where we go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and then teach converts all the commands He has given us (Matt 28:19, Mark 16:15). Continuing belief in the American democracy must acknowledge this foundation in religion that provides the sustaining essence for morality, culture, and politics.
Proclaiming and following Jesus' commands must be the primary goal of every Christian movement and organization. With all else we are as Paul tells us "only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal" (1Cor 13:1).

Goals of Christians to Follow Jesus Christ and Serve His Kingdom

The Constitution states that there can be no litmus test regarding religion for a person to be qualified for governmental leadership. But we can seek a litmus test for high character in our elected officials. Character does count, more than any leadership qualities. High character and its foundational values cannot be developed by public programs or arise out of a culture or morality with no religion for its foundation.23 High character is only possible in societies with religion as their foundation. God raises up political leaders with highest character when people heed the words of John Adams and become the religious people for whom our Constitution was framed. Our democracy succeeds when we:

1. Tell people about Jesus Christ and disciple believers on how to obey the first two commandments and follow Him.
2. Remind believers that no new laws are needed because obeying the second commandment fulfills all of God's laws.
2. Disciple believers on how to be obedient to Jesus Christ's Great Commission.
3. Develop the highest and best character possible in citizens living in our democracy.
4. Convince people to write God's laws in their hearts and minds, instead of on stone.
5. Emphasize parents' responsibility in developing children's character that must be based on religion.
6. Redirect resources from promoting legislation for controlling human behavior to following Jesus commands.
7. Elect public officials having highest, uncompromising moral character as their most important qualification rather than an agenda to control human behavior.

Human beings cannot build God's kingdom with governments that write laws in stone in order to rule people on earth. Human beings can build God's kingdom in their hearts and He can rule their lives when people belong to Him and have His laws written in their hearts.



1. Hans Kung, Eternal Life (Translated by Edward Quinn). (New York: Crossroad Publishing Co., 1995), 53.

2. Ibid., 155.

3. This claim is made by many freethinkers who believe that morality developed naturalistically during the development of human societies and moral authority is of people, by people and for people.

4. Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1988), 70.

5. Ibid., 67.

6. Stephen L. Carter, The Culture of Disbelief (New York: Doubleday, 1993), 36.

7. Government can protect the rights of people and serve their needs, but it cannot dictate and control human behavior. History shows the failure of the United States Government to prohibit the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages in a constitutional amendment from 1920 to 1933 when it was repealed. This legislation failed to control human behavior. Can a "moral nation" also use its power to force its morality on another nation? Recently, the United States used moral arguments to justify bombing a sovereign nation into submission in order to force a change in the behavior of its internal affairs. How does such wisdom develop, one that uses a morality that kills people to change their morality? The strategic interests of the United States are invoked to intervene with its military throughout the world and once this is decided a standard of morality is explained as the reasons for its actions. Morality based on human intelligence and reason invariably fails to control human behavior. The prerogative to try is maintained by the separation of church and state where religion loses any chance to be the basis for morality.

8. Carter, The Culture of Disbelief

9. Richard John Neuhaus, "Proposing Democracy Anew--Part Two," First Things, 97 (November, 1999): 88-90.

10. Richard John Neuhaus, "Proposing Democracy Anew--Part One," First Things, 97 (October, 1999): 87-90.

11. Ibid.

12. Will Durant, The Story of Civilization: Caesar and Christ (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1944), 391-406.

13. Ibid.

14. Richard G. Stevens, The American Constitution and its Provenance (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 1997), 220.

15. Ibid., 221.

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid., 41.

18. Ibid., 222. Also: To concentrate on the liberation of politics from religion, the second of the two major propositions of the later book on the First Amendment is that religious freedom and freedom of speech and press are different. Religion can be given greater freedom because it is rendered harmless. It is harmless because it rests on revealed truth, and there is no revealed truth at the bottom of American political institutions. American political institutions rest on unassisted human reason. Unassisted human reason, according to that modern political philosophy that is the source of the American institutions, rests on the political analogue of geometric axioms--the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence. Belief that there is one God, or that there are Two, or that there are Three and that the Three are One is harmless. Anyone may preach what he likes about that, because the institutions are not founded in and do not rest on revealed truths. But to teach that men are not equal in the essential political respects or that they are not endowed with rights by nature, some of which are incapable of being alienated, is a threat to the American political order. No constitution can be, and the American Constitution is not, oblivious to speech that flatly denies the principles on which it rests. In every country, at all times, such speech, seditious speech, is proscribed. The libertarian interpretation of freedom of speech would make the Court the Dr. Kevorkian of the Constitution.

19. Constitution of the United States.

20. United States Declaration of Independence. The U. S. Constitution based on the Declaration of Independence was drafted as a necessity for public good. The Declaration of Independence states Americans' unalienable rights: all men are created equal in their equal possession of the unalienable, natural rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. All other rights are alienated or given citizens by civil society, the government. The alienated rights or civil rights are judged by the government to be consistent with civility, with civilization, but they are not rights human beings have by nature's law, "human rights." Therefore, governments allow greater freedom through more civil laws when people become more civilized. Unalienable rights have been judged civil rights in the past in cases where the ruling majority did not want to grant people their full complement of unalienable rights.
When governments fail to recognize unalienable rights, religious laws are invoked to gain justice. Human beings searched for ultimate meanings in both the nineteenth-century abolitionist movement and the twentieth-century civil rights movement when the government did not recognize unalienable rights for all people. Nature's law, that became the foundation for Roman law that came down to us, may be the basis for protecting unalienable rights in the Constitution but it did not convince Americans that this law should promote the freedoms fought for in these two movements. The government failed here in its business to preserve or insure freedom. The ultimate basis for these two movements was instead in Americans' religious beliefs, rather than in nature's law and the Constitution.

21. See quotation in reference 10.

22. Quotation from an address by John Kennedy to Protestant clergy at the Houston Ministerial Association during 1960 presidential campaigns.

23. Religion institutionalized in schools or churches is less likely than instruction by parents living by God's laws to insure the development of high character and desired values. Writing God's commandments on all the walls in Christendom, on walls of stone, is not putting these laws in people's hearts. Laws must be written on human hearts for morality to appear in human activities, and for all, including politicians, we can hear Aristotle saying we judge a man's character by his acts.

Copyright 2000