Congressional Issues 2010 GOVERNMENT Personal Character and Private Sin
not ignore character
not "privatize" religion
distinguish sins and crimes
"Sin" Defined: The violation of God's Commandments:
1 John 3:4 — Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
"Beginning today and culminating on Sunday morning, Christians will celebrate with their families the resurrection of Christ, His victory over death. We will remember that He gave His body and His blood—washing clean the faults and the shortcomings of the world. In our rejoicing we will renew the hope that is ours through the risenLord." Ronald Reagan, Easter Address, April 17, 1981
"Faults" and "shortcomings" -- sometimes these are easier words than "sins." Nobody likes to be told they sin. "Sin" seems to imply an act of conscious, deliberate rebellion. Step 7 of the "12 Steps" of Alcoholics Anonymous is "Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings." One of the Greek words translated in the Bible as "sin" means "Falling Short of God's Glory. Another meaning is "missing the mark."
But it's not like we're really aiming for the target and miss because God didn't create us right. We refuse to aim for the target.
[M]an was created as a mature being, not a child. This is a fact of central importance. Humanistic psychology looks backward to a primitive past in order to explain man, whereas Biblical psychology looks neither to the child nor to a primitive past to explain man, but to a mature creation, Adam, and to God's purpose in man's creation. According to Jastrow,
What we may accept is the principle that the child is an authentic embodiment of the earliest, racially oldest, most persistent, truest to nature, depository of natural behavioristic psychology.
If man in his origin is a product of a long evolutionary past, man is then best understood in terms of the animal, the savage, and the child. However, since man was in his origin a mature creation, his psychology is best understood in terms of that fact. Man's sins and shortcomings represent not a lingering primitivism or a reversion to childhood but rather a deliberate revolt against maturity and the requirements of maturity. By ascribing to man, as humanistic psychologies do, a basic substratum of primitivism and racial childishness, this revolt against maturity is given an ideological justification; the studied and developed immaturity of man is encouraged and justified. If man is reminded rather
that he was created in Adam into maturity and responsibility, his self-justification is shattered. It has become commonplace for persons seeking counselling to discuss, not their problem, but their childhood, their parents, and their environment in order to "explain" their present "situation," that is, their failure. The fact of a mature creation is one of the basic and most important facts of a Biblical psychology. It is a fact of incalculable importance.
Can you name a political candidate who took a solemn oath to love his wife "for better or for worse, till death do us part," who subsequently left his wife for a pretty lobbyist. (Hint. Hint. You may know of others.) Can these candidates be trusted to keep an equally solemn oath to "support the Constitution?"
The scandals surrounding America's political leaders raise the question of whether character matters in a leader. For a Christian, the only answer must be an emphatic, "Yes! Character does matter."
American founding father Samuel Adams expounded on this Biblical principle when he explained:
He who is void of virtuous attachments in private life is, or very soon will be, void of all regard of his country. There is seldom an instance of a man guilty of betraying his country who had not before lost the feeling of moral obligations in his private connections… [P]rivate and public vices are in reality… connected… Nothing is more essential to the establishment of manners in a State than that all persons employed in places of power and trust be men of [exceptional] character. The public cannot be too curious concerning the characters of public men.
While many other Founders made similarly succinct declarations on the necessity of private morality in public officials (to read more of these quotes, see our book Original Intent), in recent weeks I discovered an especially interesting essay on this topic written in 1801 by Noah Webster. In that work, Webster explained why a high level of morality was necessary in the Presidency:
[A]ll history is a witness of the truth of the principle that good morals are essential to the faithful and upright discharge of public functions. The moral character of a man is an entire and indivisible thing—it cannot be pure in one part and defiled in another. A man may indeed be addicted, for a time, to one vice and not to another; but it is a solemn truth that any considerable breach in the moral sense facilitates the admission of every species of vice. The love of virtue first yields to the strongest temptation; but when the rampart [resistance] is broken down, it is rendered more accessible to every successive assailant… Corruption of morals is rapid enough in any country without a bounty [an encouragement] from government. And…
the Chief Magistrate of the United States [the President] should be the last man to accelerate its progress.
America long understood what the Bible taught: the quality of government in any country depends more upon the quality and characteristic of leaders than laws. Signer of the Constitution and Supreme Court Justice William Paterson was one of the many Founders who reminded citizens of this truth by citing Proverbs 29:2—
“…When the righteous rule, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.”
For a Christian, there can be no other position: character does count, and morality—both private and public—is essential in our leaders.