Let us Revive America!
To revive America we must revive her religious convictions. This is a worldview/culture war issue that we can win and we must win. In Texas, we have made some progress; last September a Politico headline blared “Texas textbooks tout Christian heritage.” But, if we hope to reverse our nation’s decline into chaos and anarchy, more progress is needed. British historian Paul Johnson, in the closing paragraph of his classic history of the 20th century—Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties, (1991), lays out the task before us. He writes that the chances for the 21st century becoming an age of hope for mankind depends on the eradication of four underlying evils that characterized the 20th century and that resulted in over 125 million citizens murdered by their own governments. He identifies these evils as “the rise of moral relativism, the decline of personal responsibility, the repudiation of Judeo-Christian values, [and] … the arrogant belief that men and women could solve all the mysteries of the universe by their own unaided intellects….”
II. Our Job
As we will see, the only way these evils can be eradicated is by proclamation of our Judeo-Christian religious convictions. In a way, our task is simple. We are advocating biblical principles—the wisdom of God himself; what does the world have to compete with this? Plus, biblical Christianity has a great historical track record; when properly understood, it sells itself. The embrace of biblical principles and convictions has produced the good life—rich and fulfilling individual lives, strong and vibrant families and some of the freest and most scientifically advanced societies in history—especially the United States. There are reasons for this and people need to know them; we have a great story to tell them.
But, “how” shall we tell them? In 1898, Abraham Kuyper in a series of talks at Princeton University—Lectures on Calvinism, stated the “holy mission” of the church was “recommending to others the superiority of its principles.” So, let us do just that; let us identify some key religious convictions and simply recommend them—first to our own children and then to others. We do not even need to claim that these biblical ideas are superior; if presented clearly, others will see it for themselves.
III. America is a Biblical Nation
Before we begin, let us first establish that America truly is a biblical nation founded on religious convictions. When you stand in the center of the Jefferson Memorial facing the White House and look up to your right, you will read these words of President Jefferson, “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberty of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?”
Our liberty, according to Jefferson, is not the result of our good nature, our intellect or our good intentions; it is the result of a religious conviction that it is a gift from God. Jefferson’s view was the consensus position of our founding fathers. Religiously, they were ethical monotheists; they believed in an omnipotent God who cared about right and wrong. Interestingly, if alive today, they would probably be labeled “religious conservatives.”
Like Jefferson, President Calvin Coolidge understood the importance of America’s religious convictions. In 1926, on the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, he reflected:
“A spring will cease to flow if its source be dried up; a tree will wither if its roots be destroyed. In its main features, the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document. It is a declaration, not of material but of spiritual conceptions. Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man, these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in the religious convictions. They belong to the unseen world. Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish. We cannot continue to enjoy the result if we neglect and abandon the cause.”
But even beyond the testimony of these Presidents, the best way to establish our biblical heritage is go back to July 4, 1776, to the actual words of the Declaration. Consider: “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.” The modern liberal believes there is no truth, there is no God and that we just evolved. Yet, the Declaration clearly states that truth exists, there is a Creator and that we are created. So, are we a Christian nation? When you define a Christian nation simply as being founded on biblical convictions then the answer is an unequivocal “Yes.”
As obvious as this appears, why does the modern liberal’s mind shut down when they hear us making this claim? It is because they have been taught a myth. M. Stanton Evans, in his book The Theme is Freedom: Religion, Politics and the American Tradition (1994), calls this myth the “Liberal History Lesson.” Evans explains that from their earliest education, the lessons taught to our children are based on the idea that “Our religion and our liberty…have always been in conflict. Freedom, democracy and intellectual inquiry allegedly flourished in the pagan era, only to be crushed to earth in the Christian Middle Ages.” And, “that freedom reappeared when ‘humanist’ scholars of the Renaissance and Enlightenment threw off the shackles of religion of the ancients…”Yet, it is a historic fact that biblical convictions have produced freedom. Evans proves this point by connecting two obvious facts: biblical teaching formed Europe, and Europe was the nursery of freedom—especially England.
IV. Three Religious Convictions
We will now get specific and take a brief look at three foundational biblical convictions and the role they have played in shaping our history. We will also highlight how these convictions would eradicate Paul Johnson’s four evils.
A. God is the Creator
Our foundational conviction is in a transcendent God who God created the heavens and the earth—the God who is actually there. This seems pretty obvious. Jonathan Edwards observed “It would seem self-evident that if God has no competitor but “Nothing” [capitalized], he has nothing [little n] for a competitor.” Amazingly, in today’s intellectual and scientific circles, the universe is considered to come into existence from “Nothing!”
And, because God exists, truth exists. This is also easily demonstrated. Tomorrow, when you go to church, simply ask a youth if this statement “There is no such thing as truth.” is true? Watch their minds and eyes light up as they realize for themselves that the statement is self-contradictory, that it is nonsense. One youth wisely observed “That statement doesn’t work.” Our whole idea of the Declaration’s “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” is built on this conviction.
And, because truth exists, morality exists. Therefore, holding this conviction, is the only way we can eradicate, Johnson’s 1st evil—the rise of moral relativism—and its evil twin sister—political correctness.
And, it is with the loss of this conviction that Johnson’s 4thevil—man looking only to himself for answers—plays its ruinous hand. As Johnson observes, all that the modern liberal has to offer is “New Deals, Great Societies and always and everywhere, Plans!” They rely, not on God, but on themselves. As T. S. Elliot observed, “They are constantly trying to escape the darkness outside and within; By dreaming of systems so perfect that no one needs to be good.”
Finally, it is this conviction has given rise to modern science. James Hannam, in his award-winning book The Genesis of Science: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundation for Modern Science (2009), states: “Most significantly, the Middle Ages laid the foundation for the greatest achievement of Western civilization, modern science.” Hannam clearly documents the consensus view of historians of science that it was the conviction that God created nature that led to the development of the natural philosophy of the Middle Ages which then led to the achievement of modern science.
And again, with the loss of this conviction, modern science gets in trouble and lets dogmatism—the assertion of opinion as a fact—creep in. Despite all their learned pronouncements, dogmatic evolution is not science. The supposed “fact” of evolution has resulted in more wasted thought and bad reasoning than probably any other idea that is popular today.
B. Man is created in The Image of God
Our second religious conviction is that man is created in the Image of God. It is this conviction that helps explain one of the amazing qualities of the West today—why we value other people. Can anyone dispute the fact that untold millions if they could, would cherish the opportunity to move here; while those who live here and have the freedom to leave, stay? All Americans may not share our conviction, but they do share a common heritage of carrying and compassion for others.
It even explains why people are important to a secular-minded atheist—even though they see them as just as the product of blind purposeless processes—they have inherited the conviction. David Brog explains that “morally they were born on third base and think that they have hit a moral triple.”
Clearly, the source for the moral power on which the foundation of our country is based is the Judeo-Christian idea that all men are created in the image of God. Our whole idea of liberty, of the Declaration’s “all men are created equal”, and of the importance of the individual is grounded in this great truth.
Also, as Benjamin Wiker points out in Worshipping the State: How Liberalism Became Our State Religion, (2013) it is this idea—that each individual soul has been created in the image of God— that has led to the distinction between the church and the state. The church can get a soul to heaven but the state cannot. Thus, as the state “establishes” Liberalism as our state religion—as a heaven on earth—then religion and state have joined forces and our “free exercise” of religion is lost.
And, it is the denial of this conviction that leads to chaos and anarchy—as we saw in Ferguson. Man, in the eyes of the modern liberal, is a helpless victim. Policies are then passed—in the name of liberal compassion—that squeeze the humanity out of man and Johnson’s 2nd evil—“the denial of personal responsibility” results. As people take on an entitlement mentality, society disintegrates. Denis Prager observes:
“Next time you assess any social policy, or you think through any issue, ask this question first …Will it increase or decrease a sense of entitlement among people? … And then you will know whether it is something that will bring more goodness and happiness to the world, or less.”
In stark contrast, the strengthening of this conviction favors human flourishing. The free enterprise system is built upon the principles of limited government and personal responsibility—which are built on the belief that man is created in the image of God. The free enterprise system makes better people; it rewards hard work, diligence and competence; it punishes laziness, cheating and freeloading.
C. Man is fallen
Our third foundational religious conviction is that man is fallen, that man is a sinner. This conviction is absolutely crucial to a well-functioning political system.
Our founding fathers had a clear biblical understanding of the nature of man. They not only understood that man was great—having been created in God’s image, they also knew that man was bad—having a fallen nature. Having this in mind, they designed our Constitution accordingly. Clearly understanding the reality of sin, our founders made it difficult to govern—that is, they made it difficult for tyranny to succeed; they adopted the separation of powers doctrine with its numerous checks and balances.
It is not surprising, therefore, that when modern men who deny the thinking behind our Constitution gets thwarted in their dreams, they will wrongly conclude our government is dysfunctional. But, for example, when Congress over-reached and passed an unpopular healthcare bill, the control over the House of Representatives switched parties less than one year later. Our Constitution worked flawlessly!
There is no clearer example of the repudiation of Judeo-Christian values—Johnson’s 3rd evil—than the modern liberal’s rejection of the separation of powers doctrine of our Constitution.
Also, the conviction that we are a flawed people gives insight in understanding Jefferson’s conviction that our liberty is not secure without God. As Dennis Prager points out in Still the Best Hope: Why the World Need America’s Values to Triumph, (2012) “There is, of course, one great risk to a society founded on liberty—anarchy”—a theme of this conference. He asks “Won’t inherently flawed people inevitably abuse liberty?” Yes, of course. Therefore, how did the founders propose to deal with anarchy, since they had rejected using strong government? They simply counted on their citizen’s having a faith in God and then letting God hold them accountable. It is “In God We Trust.”
V. Testing the Religious Convictions
We have now established that America is a Christian nation—having been founded on biblical principles. We have also briefly looked at three foundational religious convictions and seen how they have helped shape our nation. But our job is just beginning. Just having these convictions is not enough; we must, as Kuyper suggests, recommend them to others. To do so, let us use one of Christendom’s jewels—modern science.
Neil deGrasse Tyson’s 2014 Cosmos TV series presents a powerful definition of science; he explains that science is just a “simple set of rules” with the primary being “Test ideas by experiment and observation.” Since our convictions are “ideas,” they are the subject of scientific investigation. Let us now test them and the modern liberal’s counter-claims “by making some observations.”
We will first test the idea that “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”? When we consider that everything that had a beginning is always observed to have a cause and since we now know the universe had a beginning, simple logic tells us that the universe must have had a cause and that cause is God. This conviction has passed the test.
What about the idea that our universe popped into existence out of “Nothing?” If we accurately define “Nothing” as “what a sleeping rock dreams of,” then, we can conclude that this idea has absolutely failed the test.
Was man “created in the image of God?” Man is unique, but so are other creatures. However, as G. K. Chesterton observed “It is customary to insist that man resembles the other creatures. Yes; and that very resemblance he alone can see.” Only a strict materialist does not see the obvious—that we are of a completely different quality than all other creatures. Thus, this idea has passed the test.
What about the idea that human consciousness arose from purely naturalistic processes. For this idea, we find no observations. This idea has simply failed the test.
Finally, to prove the idea that man is a sinner so obvious it is hardly worth a comment. Even a 100 years ago, Chesterton observed “Whether or no man could be washed in miraculous waters, there was no doubt at any rate that he wanted washing.”
Thus, our foundational convictions easily pass the test of science while our culture-war competitors all fail!
VI. Texas’ Accomplishments
Texans, simply standing up for these religious convictions were elected to the State Board of Education. Then, with the help of an active grassroots—especially ladies like Cathie Adams, Pat Carlson, and MerryLynn Gerstenschlager—Texas now has textbooks that tout our religious heritage. Texas also has biology texts vainly attempting to explain evolutionary origins for the complexity of the cell. Our new standards painted the evolutionists into a corner; the explanations they have offered are so weak, that all we need to do is to point out this out to our students.
Let us conclude with two final thoughts from President Coolidge’s speech. First, like Paul Johnson, he highlights the importance of personal responsibility:
“The people have to bear their own responsibilities. There is no method by which that burden can be shifted to the government. It is not the enactment, but the observance of laws, that creates the character of a nation.”
He then concludes:
“We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren scepter in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed….”
Coolidge said, we must “cling to the things of the spirit;” President Obama, however, mocks those who “cling to their religion.” Nothing describes how America has changed better than this.
Again, according to Paul Johnson, the chances for the 21st century becoming an age of hope for mankind depends on the eradication of four underlying evils that characterized the 20th century. And we have seen, the only way these evils can be eradicated is by proclamation of our Judeo-Christian religious convictions. We actually hold these truths to be self-evident—that God is the creator, that man is created in the image of God and that man is fallen. If we want to stop anarchy and preserve our Constitution, we must be able to make the case for reviving these religious convictions to our friends. We are not asking them to accept our theology or religion; we are only asking them to recognize some obvious and scientifically sound truths about God and the nature of man that have major far-reaching consequences.
We have the winning hand; let’s make our case.
Former Chairman, Texas State Board of Education