Is John Mark Reynolds Confused About
the Proper Role of Christianity and Politics?

John Mark Reynolds
[no fancy caricature]

A Response by Kevin Craig
After reading about it at Stand to Reason

I have defended Mike Huckabee on this blog, though he is not my first choice for the nomination. He has been the victim of unfair attacks from the regular Republican Party, who are aging, or have failed to keep up with changing situations, and are out of touch with the concerns of younger voters. I do not support Huckabee at all. He's a "big-government liberal" compared to Ron Paul. Huckabee is not even on my radar as an acceptable candidate.

As a Theocratic Christian Libertarian, I do appreciate the fact that Huckabee is challenging the secularist mindset of our day by publicly integrating Christianity and politics.

I agree with JMR that "the regular Republican Party" -- the leadership; the elders who undercut the move to impeach Bill Clinton -- are dinosaurs.

In Michigan, however, Mr. Huckabee may have expressed a confusion between general and specific revelation that would disqualify him from serious consideration for Christian voters in the republic. Perhaps the reports I have read are in error or in the heat of a campaign he simply misspoke. For readers who are not familiar with the concept of General versus Special Revelation, see here. Interesting that someone who was confused on this issue would be "disqualified" from public office. Up till now, I have been the only one defending such a stringent litmus test.
What I read and heard, however, was serious. I don't follow the campaign too closely. A link here would have been a propos.
If Mike Huckabee thinks the Constitution should be changed to conform to Biblical law, then he is in grave error. Everything -- including Constitutions -- should conform to Biblical Law. The alternative -- everything violating Biblical Law -- is chaos and tyranny.

The "grave error" might be the idea that everything should conform to Huckabee's understanding of Biblical Law, again, a prescription for chaos and tyranny. I don't believe the Bible endorses big-government liberalism, but I'm willing to grant the point that Huckabee "sincerely" thinks it does.

Mike Huckabee must get the distinction between Biblical law and general revelation right to govern under the Constitution of 1789.
Is there something in the Constitution of 1789 that prescribes orthodoxy on the doctrine of "General vs. Special Revelation?"
Article II, Clause 5: No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States, and agree with John Mark Reynolds' understanding of the doctrine of "Special vs. General Revelation.".
What is this distinction? Christians realized that there were some truths that almost all people of good will understood. They could be gained through human reason, itself a common grace of God to all humankind.  
One did not need to be a Christian to make progress in math
Ultimately, this is false. A Buddhist who believes that "all is One" ultimately believes that "2+2=One." A Hindu who believes that all is "maya" (illusion) ultimately believes that math is illusory. Christian cultures make more progress in math than non-Christian cultures.
Where is the Greek version of Newton? Where is the Muslim version of Kepler? Where is the Hindu version of Boyle? Where is the Buddhist version of Mendel? Such questions are all the more powerful when you pause to consider that science studies truths that are universally true. How is it that so many other cultures, some existing for thousands of years, failed to discover, or even anticipate, Newton's first law of motion of Kepler's laws of planetary motion? So it's not just that the Christian religion is associated with the birth of modern science, it's also the fact that modern science was not birthed in cultures which lacked the Christian religion. (Michael Bumbulis)
and Christians did not take long to discover that they had much to learn from Jewish, Islamic, and even deist thinkers. That sounds obvious, but it is hard to admit that what you think is true may be true, but not have all the truths. No human being is perfectly consistent with his ultimate presuppositions, or "worldview." Someone who believes "all is illusion" may still look both ways before crossing the street. America's Founding Fathers learned a few particulars from non-Christian cultures, including the Greeks and Romans -- and many of these ideas were lessons in what not to do. The architects of a Christian culture or discipline can learn from individuals of other religions, who make progress in science despite their non-Christian, anti-science presuppositions, but we must not adopt the non-Christian philosophy.
Christianity is true so far as it goes. What does this statement even mean? Where does Christianity not go? What area of human life and thought does Christ not govern? Where does the Bible abruptly stop and say, "Oops, I better not say anything about that." Where is there a "neutral zone" of though or behavior outside the jurisdiction of Christianity?
It may also contain truths that are not obvious to other people of good will. This is not “secularism” in the modern sense, but a recognition that there are areas of Christian thought where accepting divine revelation is necessary to gain access to certain ideas. As I'm reading JMR's column, I don't understand this paragraph. Maybe it will be explained momentarily.

John 3:12
If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?

This revelation is the gift of Biblical faith, itself a divine mercy from God. Christians cannot, and when they are sensible do not, expect pagans and non-Christians to submit to Biblical law in those areas where one must be a Christian to “buy” the arguments. God expects all human beings to submit to Biblical Law.

Acts 17:30
Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent,

Non-Christian prostitutes, shoplifters, abortionists, embezzlers, and rapists are expected to submit to Biblical Law even if their own personal philosophy or worldview says the things they do are acceptable. If my son all of the sudden says he no longer believes he's obligated to obey my rules regarding my tools in the workshop, too bad. If my employee all of the sudden says he no longer believes he's obligated to obey my rules regarding office supplies, too bad. God has given me dominion and I'm obligated to make my world a Theocracy, not a Democracy. I'm not authorized to use violence, but I expect people under my authority to "submit" to Biblical Law, and I'm going to tell them that, even if they tell me to stop nagging them. This is a nag-ocracy.

Notice these verses from Young’s Literal Translation, with King David reflecting on his influence over unbelievers:

2 Samuel 22:45
Sons of a stranger feign obedience to me,
At the hearing of the ear they hearken to me.

Psalm 18:44
At the hearing of the ear they hearken to me,
Sons of a stranger feign obedience to me,

Psalm 66:3
Say to God, `How fearful [are] Thy works,
By the abundance of Thy strength,
Thine enemies feign obedience to Thee.

Psalm 81:15
Those hating Jehovah feign obedience to Him,
But their time is –– to the age.

Deuteronomy 33:29
O thy happiness, O Israel! who is like thee?
A people saved by Jehovah,
The shield of thy help,
And He who [is] the sword of thine excellency:
And thine enemies are subdued for thee,
And thou on their high places dost tread.’

Proverbs 14:19
The evil have bowed down before the good,
And the wicked at the gates of the righteous.

This was in the Old Testament, before the Advent of the Messiah, who is the "Savior" of the unsaved.

1 Timothy 4:10
For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. [that is, even of those who do not believe]

Social order and prosperity is the product of a Christian social consensus, and the material and cultural fruit of this consensus can be even enjoyed by those whose religion says it's all illusion.

Christians discovered through history that freedom of conscience was one of God’s great gifts to mankind. No human being is given a gift from God of being a "conscientious atheist." No human being has the freedom in God's eyes to be a non-Christian (Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10).

On the other hand, no Christian has the right to initiate force against non-Christians.

No human being has the right to be wrong. No human being has the right to initiate force [different link] against those who are wrong.

Christianity is socially and politically libertarian, but mentally, spiritually, and philosophically totalitarian. You can be absolutely confident that your neighbor is "dead wrong" in what he believes, but you do not have the right to kill him.

It was a hard won lesson, one of the great gifts of Christendom to the West. It is also a lesson that was achieved in dialog with secularists or near secularists who were allowed to live relatively unmolested academic lives. This is a tolerance that it is easy to chuckle at today, but letting Hume live fat and happy was a major achievement for a culture that thought some of his views quite wicked. I guess this paragraph is "true," but what does it have to do with Huckabee? Huckabee would deny this paragraph? What does this have to do with the idea attributed to Huckabee, that "the Constitution should be changed to conform to Biblical law? Is JMR saying that the Constitution should be changed to conform to Hindu law? Atheistic communist law? Is JMR criticizing America's Founding Fathers for basing the American Legal System on the Ten Commandments of the Christian Bible?
Most of the world still would not give such a man the right to live, let alone be an honored member of a culture. Christians should celebrate this tolerance and not fall back fearfully on winning arguments through imposing laws on people that cannot accept them. Is Huckabee really this anti-libertarian?
Even today people on the right and left struggle to sustain the principle that the right to dissent is nearly absolute. What is mean by the phrase, "the right to dissent?" In what sense is it not "absolute?"
Of course the right to dissent from law (in behavior) is not absolute. Of course. Not in a Christian nation, anyway.
It is not absolute exactly where the Framers said it was. Christians cannot allow the right to life, liberty, and private property to be taken away from men and women, because these are rights that reasonable people should be able to grasp without being Christian. "Rights" rhetoric is always quicksand. People today speak of a "right to a living wage," and other nonsense. No human being has a "right" to life. Every human being has a duty not to take another's life.
Traditional marriage and procreation is of interest to the state. Everything in heaven and on earth is of "interest" to the modern state. It is totalitarian in its lusts.
Most people in most places at most times have believed this was a “self-evident” truth just as the right to life is self-evident. In other words, the state has a right to define marriage and punish adultery. This was certainly true back when America was a more Christian nation. Is JMR suggesting that adulterers be punished by the State? Does Huckabee deny this?
Every culture develops thoughtful minorities who may dissent from these truths, but they must submit to the rule of law. The rule of Whose law?
It is important, however, that freedom of conscience, soul liberty, be maintained as far as possible. Laws do as little as possible to force people to do what they believe to be wrong or prevent them from doing what they believe to be right. Is the goal only to be minimalist ("as little as possible") or is the goal to be Biblical? Who has the right to define the reach of State coercion? Shouldn't this reach be defined by Biblical Law? Isn't that what Huckabee is saying (our disagreements with his interpretation of that Law notwithstanding)?
Religion contains knowledge of this sort, philosophical arguments that it can add to the public square. When these arguments prevail religious voters must do so with a consensus that the widest possible group of people can accept. Fifty-one percent law is usually bad law. Have we moved from minimalism to utilitarianism ("greatest good for greatest number")?
Any idea that requires a belief in Christian doctrine or specific Christian revelation cannot be imposed or should not imposed by force on non-believers. Charles Manson or some Satanist believes he must kill a famous actress. Should the State impose on Mr. Manson the Christian idea that it's immoral to murder, even if that idea is contrary to Mr. Manson's  deepest conscientious beliefs, beliefs which vitally animate and comprehensively define his entire life's purpose and the meaning of his existence?
Mike Huckabee appears to have said that the Constitution should match the Word of God. If by the Word of God, Huckabee means the Bible (it is possible he did not), then he is wrong to say the Constitution should conform to it. The Constitution should contradict the Word of God?

There's a possibility in JMR's mind that Huckabee believes something other than the Bible is "the Word of God??"

The Constitution should NOT conform to the Bible?

A Constitution may agree with Sacred Scripture, but it should not impose that specific revelation on the commonwealth. What is a Constitution and a legal system if not the imposition of ideas or morality? A Constitution cannot impose "Thou shalt not kill" on the commonwealth? Not a single person who signed the Constitution of 1787 would agree with that proposition.
This takes matters of personal faith and the Church into the public square where they do not belong. These issues may be knowledge of a sort, the doctrine of the trinity is true, but it is not knowledge based on argument to which non-Christians have access. Like virtually all the state constitutions, the Delaware constitution of 1776 established a Christian State by requiring:

Art. 22. Every person who shall be chosen a member of either house, or appointed to any office or place of trust . . . shall . . . make and subscribe the following declaration, to wit: "I ________, do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, Blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the holy scripture of the Old and New Testaments to be given by divine inspiration."[1]

Why is this an unChristian thing to do?

Huckabee should press for the Constitution to conform to the law of Nature and of Nature’s God, but he should not press for the Constitution to enshrine any law that requires acceptance of any religious claim more specific than that. The "[L]aw[s] of Nature and of Nature’s God" was just an eloquent shorthand for the Bible.

Should the Constitution enshrine a law that imposes behaviors on people (atheists) who do not believe in the "[L]aw[s] of Nature and of Nature’s God?" Which god? Which laws?

I hope and assume that I have misunderstood Huckabee’s position or he has disagrees with one of the most glorious accomplishments of American Baptist tradition.  
It was, more than any other group, American Baptists who pressed in civil matters for maximum soul liberty. It would be sad for a great Southern Baptist leader to fail to understand this issue. Three cheers for Baptists. Boo for John Mark Reynolds.

Further Resources:

Part 2 (Actually, this is part 1)

January 16, 2008

This post at Stand to Reason (left-hand column) was actually posted before the one above. Our response is below.

Presidents and Pastors

Pastors and presidents have very different jobs and rationales for what they do and candidates should respect that distinction. 
Where does the Bible say that Presidents and Pastors have "very different jobs?" The word "Pastor" is Biblically and etymologically a "Shepherd." In the Bible, it is the President (the "king") who is to "shepherd" the people:

2 Samuel 5:2
Also, in time past, when Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel out and brought them in; and the LORD said to you, ‘You shall shepherd My people Israel, and be ruler over Israel.’”

See also 2 Samuel 7:7; 1 Kings 22:17; 1 Chronicles 11:2; 1 Chronicles 17:6; Psalm 78:71-72; Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 56:11; Jeremiah 23:1-4; Jeremiah 25:34-38; Ezekiel 34; Ezekiel 37:24-28, etc., etc. English synonyms explained in alphabetical order. With copious illus. and examples drawn from the best writers (1902)

Our rights are endowed by our Creator and that's why the government needs to respect them.  Our government needs to respect our rights because they come from God? This means our government is essentially religious, because its most fundamental duty is toward God, and this is the essence of "religion" (James 1:27; religion :: 1828 Noah Webster's Dictionary of the English Language).
But our government is a secular one.  The rationale for government actions should be appealed to on grounds that are accessible and persuasive to everyone regardless of their religious convictions, not on Biblical grounds. 
This is utterly false, and contradicts what was just said above. Our government has a duty to be religious, not "secular." When the Mormons sought to overturn laws against polygamy, the U.S. Supreme Court denied their request on the grounds that polygamy is not tolerated in Christian nations. If a secular nation outlawed polygamy, it would be purely arbitrary. In one of the most famous addresses in all of American history, George Washington urged that we reject this
supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
That's why I think Gov. Huckabee's comments were very unwise now that he's a presidential candidate. So the truth can be spoken by "ecclesiastical" pastors, but not by "political" pastors? Who made this rule?

"I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution," Huckabee told a Michigan audience on Monday. "But I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that's what we need to do -- to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view."

The Constitution should never be changed to conform to God's standards - at least that's not the reason we should change it.  What's right and good is certain God's standard, and the rationale for Constitutional amendments should be made because it's right and good, not because it's God's standard.  We should amend the Constitution for appropriate and good reasons for societal welfare.  We should not do something because God commands it, but only because we feel like it? Atheistic Autonomy is to be preferred over Christian Theonomy?

What standard is there besides God's standard for determining right and good? Is "right and good" just out there somewhere? Was it there before God was there?

What behavior will guarantee our "societal welfare" if not God-commanded behavior? Can "God Bless America" for any other reason than that we obey His Commandments?

And very good and persuasive secular reasons can be given for traditional marriage and against same-sex marriage.
Check their link, and ask the author, what are the secular reasons for not legalizing incest? Was there a single signer of the Constitution who would agree with this proposition:
No behavior should be criminalized only because the Bible says so. Behavior should be made a crime only if the Mormon, the Aztec, the French Revolutionary, and the Satanist agree that it should be outlawed.
Not a single Founding Father would agree that only atheistic or non-Biblical reasons can be advanced by lawmakers. The Bible is the basis for American Law.
Further, the basis of our Constitution, and I believe one of the wise things about it, is that the Federal government is limited to certain functions.  It isn't meant to do everything smaller governments and individual citizens are meant to do.  Thus, the Constitution could never and should never encompass God's standards because His standards are a lot more encompassing and demanding than our government can and should demand.  This is a logical fallacy. Every one of the federal government's enumerated powers should be carried out in accord with Scripture.

Just because the federal government shouldn't do everything God wants done in the world doesn't mean it shouldn't do anything God wants done, and precisely because the God of the Bible commands it.

Gov. Huckabee has seemed to mix these categories before when he talked about the role the government has to fill with social programs because we as individuals and Christians have failed to do what God has asked us to.  Even if we fail to live up to God's expectations, the government should not step in to do what the Church and individual citizens should be doing.  Huckabee is wrong to say the federal government should enact "social programs." No branch of government -- state, local, or federal -- should enact "social programs." It is immoral for Smith to steal from Jones to give aid to the impoverished Wilson.
There's a role for government and there's a role for the church, and they function best and provide the greatest freedom and good when the roles don't cross over. "There is a role." Where? Where is this "role" defined? Does the Constitution say that charity is for "the church" and not the role of "the state?" No, STR is applying a BIBLICAL principle to the State, just like Huckabee. I thought this was verboten?
As a pastoral exhortation, I think Pastor Huckabee's comments were appropriate.  But as a presidential candidate, Gov. Huckabee doesn't seem to recognize the distinct roles pastors and presidents play and that makes me very uncomfortable.  "Very uncomfortable." Boo-hoo. The author would have been very uncomfortable on the day the Constitution was completed for this Christian nation.

I'm going to keep my eye peeled for a statement that says George Washington was not only "the father of his country," but also "the shepherd."

"Clinton has portrayed herself as the best prepared candidate to shepherd the U.S. economy" [source]

No, I'm thinking of something 200 years old, speaking more Biblically.

In a series of steps culminating in the Constitutional Convention of 1789, Washington risked his reputation and honor to shepherd the leaders of our nation toward that elusive unity he believed so critical to our survival. And then, without campaigning and out of duty, Washington consented to his election, as President. [source]

No, I'd still like to find something more contemporaneous, from an author who was consciously thinking about the verses cited above.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), sixteenth president of the United States, has become a mythic figure in America's civil religion. Born into relative poverty on the midwestern frontier, he rose from humble origins through self-discipline, honesty, common sense, a considerable measure of ambition, and a ready wit to shepherd the nation through the black days of the Civil War. After his death, Americans found it irresistible to see his achievement in a religious light. It was soon noted, for example, that Lincoln -- the "Savior" of the Union -- was shot on Good Friday (April 14, 1865), that his efforts to liberate the bondslave and bind up the wounds of war were cut short by "martyrdom," and that his very name -- Abraham -- spoke of the father of his people. Although Lincoln himself originally saw the Civil War as a political struggle to preserve the Union, he came to regard it as a crusade for truth and right. He spoke of the United States as "the last, best hope of the earth," of its citizens as "the almost chosen people," and of the War as a test to see if a nation "conceived in liberty . . . can long endure." [source]

Eu, yuck.