For since the insolence of the wicked is so great, and their iniquity so obstinate that it can scarcely be restrained by all the severity of the laws, what may we expect they would do, if they found themselves at liberty to perpetrate crimes with impunity, whose outrages even the arm of secular power cannot altogether prevent?
[Please note that my views change over time and I no longer advocate co-belligerency with unbelievers or those who promote another gospel. I allow my previous articles to stand as written to show the change in my thinking over time. The truth of Scripture itself, however, never changes. Psalm 119:89. Charlie J. Ray. March 22, 2015].
Though I greatly admire Dr. Michael Horton and his call for Christians to return to the confessional roots of the Protestant Reformation, I must strongly and vehemently disagree with his position regarding Christian involvement in the political affairs of this country. I must further state that I am neither a theonomist nor am I a reconstructionist. I do not believe that this country ever was nor will it ever be a "Christian" nation.
That being said, however, I would agree with Horton that civil religion and the Gospel must never be confused. God does not give blanket endorsement to any political party or social class of the American culture. We shall all be judged by God's moral law as it is stated in the ten commandments and in the other places in Holy Scripture where moral commands are made binding upon us by Christ, the apostles, and the prophets. Only the ceremonial laws and the judicial/civil laws of the ancient nation of Israel have passed away.
Where I strongly disagree with Horton is the idea that Christians in general cannot and should not try to "legislate" morality. Horton seems to think that legislating morality is a compromise of the doctrines of grace and the very Gospel itself. This could not be further from the truth. Even if we operate under the two kingdoms theology advocated by Horton, it would not follow that we cannot be co-belligerents with Roman Catholics, heterodox sects, or even Mormons on issues like abortion, gay rights and capital punishment. In fact, I would argue that Horton is guilty of the sin he is accusing the religious right of committing. Horton is advocating legislating morality. The problem is Horton's view of morality is heretical. Horton seems to think that Christians are morally bound to shut up and let the wicked rule the worldly kingdom, otherwise we risk confusing civil religion with the Gospel. But this is a non sequitur. Christians in every era have always believed that they should be about persuading the world that it is wrong on moral issues.
Where it is possible to change ungodly laws for laws which are more in line with natural law and with moral law, then Christians of all denominations should come together to make these changes. It does not follow that if I work with conservative Muslims, Mormons and Roman Catholics for more moral national laws that I must then compromise the Gospel or my witness in order to bring about a more general good for the nation. Co-belligerency on political/ethical/moral issues in the civic realm does not mean that I must then accept the doctrines of those with whom I am fighting to reform an unjust and immoral society. Thus, Horton's entire premise in this article is not only a red herring but is also a non sequitur. It does not follow.
I would also disagree with Horton when he says that, "Now one might argue that one's position on abortion must be consistent with his profession of faith, and I do believe that every Christian ought to seek the end of this worldwide holocaust, but abortion is not in the Apostle's Creed! It is not an article of Christian faith!" And this is precisely where Horton is absolutely and unequivocally WRONG. Abortion falls into the category of moral law; the moral law is NOT optional for the truly converted Christian. Abortion is not in the Apostles' Creed but it IS in the Decalogue! According to the Westminster Confession the purpose of God's law is to:
Chapter XIX Of the Law of God
V. The moral law doth forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof; and that not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator who gave it. Neither doth Christ in the gospel any way dissolve, but much strengthen, this obligation.
VI. Although true believers be not under the law as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned; yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life, informing them of the will of God and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts, and lives; so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin; together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of his obedience. It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin, and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve, and what afflictions in this life they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law. The promises of it, in like manner, show them God's approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof; although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works: so as a man's doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one, and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law, and not under grace.
VII. Neither are the forementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the gospel, but do sweetly comply with it: the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely and cheerfully, which the will of God, revealed in the law, requireth to be done.
I would further argue that Horton misses the point. While Christians are not under the law as a means of justification before God, they ARE obligated to live a Christian life as guided by the moral law. This is a fruit of true conversion, though not the basis for our justification before God. One would think that someone as educated as Horton would be able to avoid non sequiturs like suggesting that because "some" Christian leaders who live immoral lives in contradiction to their outwardly confessed convictions and theological positions somehow makes it wrong for all Christians to try to influence the morality which is legislated in this country. While it is true that the law of the land cannot force anyone to be converted or to have a change of heart, Calvin himself said that the civil laws of the nation restrain the wicked so that there is not total anarchy and so that society is not as wicked as it might be. Therefore, it is not only anti-Christian to oppose the legislation of Christian morality but it is also anti-Reformed! Both Luther and Calvin would have rejected our modern views on separation of church and state and would be appalled that Horton apparently takes the Anabaptist position where Christians should not be involved in politics.
Horton is so wrong on this position that it makes him look foolish to say the least. It is more than obvious to me that Horton's commitment to liberal politics has caused him to try to influence Christians away from the Christian Right and more in the direction of the civil religion of the liberal left. A vote for Barack Obama is a vote for the civil religion of theological liberalism where sin is openly institutionalized, approved, and endorsed--all in the name of God. While I would not say that God is on the side of the Republicans, I can without a doubt say that God is on the side of the unborn! I can without a doubt say that God hates homosexuality and the homosexual! I can say this because God hates the reprobate wicked and all the unsaved elect who have yet to be converted.
Horton is also inconsistent with Reformed theology when he says that AIDS is not part of God's judgment against homosexuals. Horton does not want to offend homosexuals with any idea of God's wrath against them or their sin. While I might agree that AIDS is not directed only against homosexuals, I disagree that it is not part of God's judgment against sin. All diseases in this current world are a result of God's judgment against mankind because of Adam and Eve's rebellion. Furthermore, AIDS is a judgment against those who practice sexual immorality whether they be heterosexual or homosexual. Sexually transmitted diseases are a punishment for the violation of God's moral law. And those who contract the disease as a result of drug abuse are likewise suffering judgment for their sins. As for those who get the disease by no fault of their own, they suffer God's judgment because of the sins of others. To suppose that sin does not affect others, our neighbors and our relatives is not only naive, it is ignorant. Horton seems to imply a deistic approach where God is not providentially or sovereignly in control and stuff just happens.
As a further indictment of Horton's theology, I would have to say that his concerns about how we persuade the homosexual to conversion is misguided. How will we persuade dead men to repent unless God first raises them from the dead? How does trying to influence public policy confuse the moral law? Whether we preach the law in church or whether we try to change public laws which go against the moral law, we are still preaching the law, without which there can be no Gospel! The law and the Gospel go hand in hand and without the law there can be no conviction or revelation of sin. If society approves, institutionalizes, and endorses sin it makes the job of preaching the gospel even harder because no there is no public shame for sins otherwise universally seen as sinful! By observing the secularization of the European countries we can see the results of secularization and a rejection of moral law. Horton is utilizing wishful thinking if he thinks withdrawing from the cultural war is somehow an advantage to preaching the Gospel! And Horton seems to ignore the doctrine of total depravity. Moral persuasion cannot work with homosexuals. So why is he worried that changing the criminal and civic laws will offend them? They are wicked and unsaved. So what if the moral law offends them? Is it right to give in to sin just because sinners protest? Of course not! This is the silliest argument I have ever seen Horton make. If that be the case, we should give up preaching the Gospel because the Gospel offends as well as the law offends. Without the law there is no understanding of sin. Both the law and the Gospel offends the lost sinner. This has absolutely nothing to do with making the laws of our nation more in line with the "general equity" understanding espoused by Calvin himself!
I am wondering as well how Horton can say that abortion is not a heresy? Horton says in his conclusion, " Being pro-choice I believe is morally wrong, but it is not heretical." To the contrary, the Apostle Paul clearly says that sound doctrine is necessary for true Christianity to exist and more to the point, Paul says this in the context of morality! Therefore, to promote institutionalized immorality IS a heresy since Paul says:
1 Timothy 1:8-11 (ESV)
8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.
It seems to me that Horton's real concern here is not civil religion or the compromise of the Gospel with political agendas. Rather, Horton is trying to sneak in his own politically liberal views couched in the hidden language of Reformed theology, which really is not Reformed at all! Horton is guilty of trying to influence Christians away from fighting the culture war and to surrender to an evil and wicked generation. But Paul and the original apostles turned the world upside down for the cause of Christ. Christianity did not compartmentalize its theology but sought to reform the whole world according to the law of God. While political change alone cannot save even one soul, it can and does lay the groundwork for the preaching of the Gospel by making God's moral law the general understanding of right and wrong in the culture. Where the culture has no understanding at all of God's law, then we wind up with secular atheism and dead churches like the situation we observe in Europe. The Gospel has for all practical purposes died out in Europe. Surrendering morality to the wicked here in the United States is to surrender the Gospel as well. We must never move beyond the culture wars. Rather we must fight to win the culture wars and then to preach the doctrines of grace and the Gospel of Jesus Christ to confront both pelagianism and civil religion. What Horton is promoting will lead to an ineffective church and a morally depraved national culture which in turn makes preaching the cross even more difficult than it already is. Even so, we should never forget that God is the only one who can elect, regenerate, justify and convert a lost sinner.
May God convert the nation and bring it to repentance before His judgment falls!
Soli Deo Gloria!