|Posted by John Suttles on April 5, 2015 at 10:00 PM|
A recent blog post by Chuck Baldwin, former pastor and syndicated radio personality, and a response to that post by author and constitutional commentator Ted Weiland, have reignited (or perhaps simply continued) the ongoing debate concerning the moral foundations of the U.S. Constitution. Baldwin’s blog rebukes many religious conservatives for their Phariseeism and war-mongering, while they fail to recognize that their constitutional liberties are being inexorably eroded.
Ted Weiland takes Baldwin to task for what he perceives as a fundamental misunderstanding of the Constitution. Weiland argues that the Constitution is actually the source of all modern social/governmental problems because its authors substituted a government of man’s laws for the government he argues was originally established in the colonies – one based upon the acknowledgement of God’s law embodied in Scripture as the only rule for the nation.
Having read both articles, it is a constant source of amazement that so many, including these writers, lose sight of the “forest” of history for looking at the “trees,” or to use another analogy the grand sweep of history is neglected to focus on one particular historical "hobby horse," riding it furiously in the attempt to convince ourselves (mainly) and others that we're actually getting somewhere. While every attempt at historical interpretation is, in the strictest sense of the term, particularized, in that the writer is always sifting, weighing, judging, and choosing some facts over others (with his recognized or unrecognized biases), it is bad historical reporting to argue from narrow circumstances to a general conclusion, which generally misses the point. That is what both of these have done.
Whatever the "founders" did or didn't believe, whatever the original colonists did or didn't covenant to do, whatever the Constitution does or doesn't mean, are all secondary to this reality which existed in the years leading up to the War for Independence and for some period of time thereafter – the general influence of Christianity upon individuals and therefore upon the societies that made up the colonies and later the Sovereign States. This influence permeated families, neighborhoods, towns, and where it did not, men were sent to proclaim the Gospel, so that such influence would be felt in such places. No right thinking person would argue that everyone, or even a majority of the population at that time, was truly converted, but the Gospel's "leavening" power was unmistakable in those decades. It was that influence which gave motive force to the uniqueness of the American “experiment,” whatever might or might not be true about its particular form of government.
Whether Baldwin's or Weiland's arguments concerning government are right are really inconsequential. Let Weiland's theocratic model be implemented tomorrow and the results will be no better than those in ancient Israel if unaccompanied by a general diffusion of the Gospel's converting power among the population. Baldwin laments the state of the churches in our day. Yet what he seems unwilling to recognize or admit is that in general they are heavily populated by the unconverted. Is it any wonder then that they have no influence upon the world - they, in the main, are the world!
In either case it will not be by the promulgation of Biblical law or by the recognition of religious conservatives that they need to preserve their constitutional rights, it will be when there is again the heralding forth of that Gospel which is "the power of God unto salvation" by (as the missionary Eugenio Kincaid so rightly said) "a new order of men, - men just as absorbed in winning souls to Christ, as worldings are in gathering gold." This is what our spiritual forefathers understood. It is not the form of government, it is rather the "form of sound words" accompanied by the "working of His mighty power" to convert the individual, and the conversion of individuals that will ultimately influence the government. When the Gospel has once again permeated our society, as it did in our nation’s early years, then we will see government changed, because there will be again a principle of personal holiness active in our citizens.
Don't misunderstand, we ought to have right laws founded upon Biblical principles. The point is that merely having those will not change hearts or ensure that the nation will exist in perpetuity, any more than it did for Israel. Whatever particular position any one of our spiritual ancestors held concerning the Constitution as a "good" or "bad" form of government, those who were truly Christians agreed on these fundamental principles – the lost (both at home and abroad) must have the Gospel preached to them, they must be made “new creatures” by the irresistible working of the Holy Spirit, they must be formed into local churches who must themselves further extend the proclamation of that everlasting Gospel – or this nation, any nation, would not long survive. "Those who turned the world upside down" in the first century didn't do so by wringing their hands about how to get Caesar to see the value of infusing Biblical principles into Roman statutes, they did it by heralding the Gospel to individuals and establishing churches of faithful believers who were willing even to be made flaming sacrifices to the madness of a Nero.
Should we wish to see a "Christian nation" again, we must labor for it by the conversion of individuals, not by the change of governments. Let Baldwin and Weiland debate the issues of the Constitution. There shall never be an end to that because it deals only a glancing blow to real issue - the necessity of having the stony heart changed for an heart of flesh.