There has always been a battle over God’s law. Peter said, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29; also 4:19). Tyrannical governments understand that the people cannot serve two masters: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matt. 6:24). It’s not money.
It’s either the State or God, or to be more correct, “It’s the State because it’s God.”
There’s always a god to be worshipped, followed, and obeyed:
Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21).
There’s nothing in between. There’s no neutrality. Bob Dylan wrote:
You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearlsBut you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
It’s true that when people cease to believe in God they don’t stop believing. They will always claim something to be the highest authority and worship it. G.K. Chesterton has Father Brown saying in The Incredulity of Father Brown:
People readily swallow the untested claims of this, that, or the other. It’s drowning all your old rationalism and scepticism, it’s coming in like a sea; and the name of it is superstition. The first effect of not believing in God is to believe in anything.
Today, the “anything” includes crystals, aliens, untested scientific theories passing as absolute fact, and government.
Chinese authorities have ordered a church to remove the First Commandment from a display on the grounds that it contradicts the policy of China’s President Xi Jinping.
According to Bitter Winter, which reports on religious freedom in China, about 30 officials in Henan Province’s Luoning country conducted an inspection at the church and wiped off the commandment from a display on the wall.
The commandment says: ‘You shall have no other gods before me’.
There’s nothing new in what the Chinese government is doing. It’s been done before. The following is from the introduction to the 1956 film The Ten Commandments directed by Cecil B. DeMille:
The government of Chia gets it. Unfortunately, many Christians in the United States don’t get it. They claim that in the dispensation of grace God’s Law does not apply, especially the Ten Commandments. Andy Stanley is saying this to a church with more than 30,000 members. See my article “Millennial Pastor Seeking to be Relevant Becomes Irrelevant.”
Here’s an example from someone who represents a theological movement embraced by millions of Christians worldwide. Former Dallas Theological Seminary professor S. Lewis Johnson wrote the following in 1963:
At the heart of the problem of legalism is pride, a pride that refuses to admit spiritual bankruptcy. That is why the doctrines of grace stir up so much animosity. Donald Grey Barnhouse, a giant of a man in free grace, wrote: “It was a tragic hour when the Reformation churches wrote the Ten Commandments into their creeds and catechisms and sought to bring Gentile believers into bondage to Jewish law, which was never intended either for the Gentile nations or for the church.” He was right, too.1
Lewis describes following God’s moral law as “legalism.” If this is true, then why did Paul write that “the law is good, if one uses it used lawfully” (1 Tim. 1:8) and then proceed to quote some of the Ten Commandments (vv. 9-10)? What objection can a Christian make to a civil government that enslaves, brutalizes, and murders people if the Ten Commandments do not bind Gentile believers and unbelievers?
The best that these Christians can do is appeal to Natural Law. But given the basic assumptions of modern-day naturalism, there is no fundamental moral law in nature. Nature is evolving. It’s survival of the fittest, “nature, red in tooth and claw,” “DNA neither knows nor cares,” as Richard Dawkins put it.
Christians may still believe in some form of Natural Law that ironically parallels much of biblical law, but secularists do not. Former Senator and Vice President Joe Biden attacked Clarence Thomas during the jurist’s Senate hearings. Here’s some of what then-Senator Biden wrote on the subject:
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But to say that Clarence Thomas and I stand on the same side of the natural-law divide is not to say that his Supreme Court nomination is one I can certainly support. For there are a wide range of philosophies that fit under the rubric of “natural law” or “natural justice.”
Some “natural law” adherents belong to a “higher law” school, teaching that God has established a code of “right” and “wrong.” Others believe that a set of principles of “right moral conduct” can be rationally deduced. Still others conclude that “natural justice” encompasses certain rights that are inherent in all men. Which variety of natural-law thinking would Clarence Thomas bring to the Supreme Court?