— By THE REV. LOU TISCIONE
Why does it seem that society requires Christians to keep what they believe to themselves? In our so-called multi-cultural society, all have equal opportunities to express themselves except Christians. Secular humanists are those who have a man-centered world view. They insist that faith is a private matter. They are quick to point to our founders who expressed the idea that the church is separate from the state.
Those who claim that there is this overriding principle of the separation of church and state, silence public moral reflections. In fact, their premise is that there are no moral standards; just as there is no absolute truth. The only absolute is that there are no absolutes! So we might use their standard to critique their philosophy. Since there are no absolutes, why then can the secular humanists impose the absence of absolutes?
Let me suggest a view that is closer to our Founders’. They, E.G. Jefferson, insisted that the establishment of a state religion was not appropriate for religious freedom in this country. Specifically, they did not recommend a Church of America comparable to the Church of England. However, the Founders knew that this experiment of a Democratic Republic (Representative Republic) would not survive unless those involved in government had a moral compass. The Founders envisioned a triangular system. The three points of the triangle are: Government, Capitalism and Faith, each one informing the other. In my opinion, it has only been in the last four or five decades that faith has been removed the triangle.
When faith is absent, ethics are also absent. Decisions not informed by faith are made based on individual preferences.
Opposed to the system based on personal preference there is an ethical system. Ethics are brought to bear in every situation so as to make good and right decisions. In order to make ethical decisions, especially for those in government, one cannot “keep it to oneself”. The “it” is faith. Faith motivates our actions. Therefore, keeping our faith to ourselves is not possible if credible/ethical decisions are sought.
We are seeing the absence of moral ethics in our society. Self-interest has become the great motivator. That is, we make decisions based upon what someone promises to give us or what we think will benefit us. The question of right and wrong rarely enters our decision making process.
It’s not only the secular world where this philosophy is seen. It is in the church as well. Previously, I wrote concerning the motivation for ministry in the church. The most popular motivation for why churches do the things they do is “felt needs”. Felt needs in churches are analogous to self-interest in the public arena.
There are two passages of Scripture that specifically address the question of ethical practice. Deuteronomy 11:26-28, “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God… and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God…” and 2Corinthians 10:5, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
In each case, Deuteronomy and 2Corinthians, believers are called to apply what they know to be true in making decisions. The guiding force in each case is the knowledge of God. Faith in God should be seen. It is not in accordance with God’s word that His people keep what they believe silent. He holds all of His people accountable to declare the truth.
James wrote, “… I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:18 Peter exhorted Christians to, “… always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” 1Peter 3:15. The Risen Lord Jesus commanded disciples to make disciples of all nations, Matthew 28:19.
If we are truly to be the church of Jesus Christ, we must speak what we believe. How can we simply remain silent when all around us there are people lost and heading to hell? Ethical decisions are made when we look at every opportunity to live out the truth of what we believe.
The Lord has blessed us all with the privilege of living in a country that cherishes freedom. We who are Christians are by God’s word to live under the law of the land and to exercise what we believe in the public arena.
The Rev. Lou Tiscione is pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA).