You know that the “Age of Reason” has come to a pathetic failure when politicians start over again claiming God on their side. For two generations the American politics – both sides of the political spectrum – fought tooth and claw against God’s interference in politics, invoking instead all kinds of imaginary standards and authorities that may create some aura of respectability and trustworthiness for their policies. American journalism – and the MSM, especially – was busy helping the politicians isolate God in His corner. Organizations like ACLU employed multiple resources and billions of taxpayers money to completely erase the name of God from the official documents, proceedings, and acts of the government of a nation that has been founded with the express goal to be a Christian nation and nothing else.
It was in this last decade that the American society has finally begun to experience the fruits of this political humanism – the belief that man is the ultimate source of all political values, principles, and practical policies. The chickens have come home to roost, and the product of it is certainly not the expected fruit that the Enlightenment promised over 200 years ago. Man successfully separated God from politics but this did not create lasting paradise on earth; to the contrary, the political class created a civilization that is now obviously unsustainable politically, economically, morally, psychologically. Politicians lack answers to the issues of the day; and based on that, the political system is losing its legitimacy. Politicians can’t refer anymore to the cherished humanistic standards of reason, pragmatism, common sense, practical policy, etc. Something greater is needed to give legitimacy to the political order, again.
No wonder then that in these days we see politicians on both sides invoking God to support their policies. Michael Gerson gives a good example of it in his article, “God’s Budget.” In a very perceptive paragraph, he makes the conclusion:
On the testimony of some of his followers, God is both to the right of Boehner and to the left of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (who didn’t include revenues in his approach). Both parties read the same Bible and pray to the same God – but apparently listen to different economists.
He then concludes: “This use of religion in politics is a source of cynicism.” He is wrong. This use of God to endorse the personal preferences of human beings as to what is good and what is not is the practical consequence of cynicism. Cynicism, the shameless rejection of all moral values, is not the product, it is the very foundation of it; and the foundation of cynicism is humanism, the belief that man is the measure of all things. All humanism is by default cynicism; it brings morality down to the lowest base instincts of man. Humanism, by divorcing ethics from heaven, marries it to the earth, and thus when applied to its logical end, it inevitably ends in cynicism.
And while Christianity draws its ethics from God in heaven and works to subject the earth to it; humanism-cynicism takes its ethics from the lowest animals (“cynicism” comes from kynikos, “dog-like”) and then attempts to force God to submit to it. And thus we have politicians who are trying to use God to endorse their cynical policies.
Of course, Gerson himself is not any better. He counters the politicians’s cynicism with his own brand of cynicism which excludes God from the details of the political decisions. Yes, sure, Jesus did give us general principles of “compassion and human dignity” and they had “dramatic public consequences.” But when it comes to real policies, budget, welfare, etc., we better keep God out. In fact, He is not much interested in it anyway. We humans decide based on our own perception of what “reality” is. So while the politicians are cynical in that they try to invoke God to endorse their specific preferences, Gerson is cynical in that he tries to keep God out of the universe God Himself has created. Politicians are desperate for legitimacy, so they invoke God. Gerson is jealous – he wants journalists to be invoked instead, so he speaks for God and declares that God is actually not very interested in the details of politics.
Both Gerson and the politicians he criticizes are missing one thing: God has not left us without clear revelation about His will, both in the general principles and in the details. We don’t need to hear voices to know what budget God wants. And God doesn’t need the bureaucratic state to apply in principle His will about economy, family, care for the elderly, or welfare. And certainly God is not the remote being who is only generally giving vague direction, disinterested in the details of our life and policies. He has revealed His will in His Law in the Bible.
And that’s what the politicians never refer to. And that’s what Gerson is trying to avoid, declaring God’s lofty detachment from the particulars of the life of our society. Theonomy, the rule of the Law of God is what they are afraid of. Sure enough, they can allow God to endorse certain policies with a silent nod. Are they can let Him be the general moralist that is conveniently vague about particulars. But His Law? No way. Humanist cynicism can’t afford such a notion.
But it is exactly that humanism-cynicism that brought us the confusion we have today. Human beings can’t produce a system of ethics out of themselves; neither can they produce a standard for what is “pragmatic” and “practical.” Contrary to what many claim, there is no “natural law” inherent in man that can teach him what is good and just, and what will achieve good results; in fact, there is nothing in man to help him tell between good results and bad results. Man, without God to teach him both the principles and the particulars of justice and righteousness, is helpless like a fish out of the water. It is only in the context of the Law of God – for both him as an individual and for his society and culture – that he can breathe and live and survive and thrive. Taken out of that context of the Law of God man inevitably falls into confusion, ignorance, and eventually self-destruction. What is happening around us today is another historical confirmation of that Biblical truth. And the confusion we have in our politics today is only the logical result of the confusion we have in us as individuals, in our families, and in our churches. Just like Gerson and the politicians he talks about, we have either invoked God to silently endorse our own ideas of good and bad, or we have tried to shut Him out of our universe, especially from the particulars of our life and thinking.
And the consequences are all around us. While the understanding and the obedience to God of our Founding Fathers haven’t always been perfect in all their ways, they have at least professed faith in the God of the Bible and have openly and officially claimed His Word and His Law as the foundation for the American Republic. Individuals, families, churches, and politicians, did not try to enlist God among their supporters, they tried to discover God’s will by going back to His Word. Laws were made, and judges judged based on the legal and judicial standards of the Law of God. God was not reduced to a silent nod for specific policies, and He was not pushed out of man’s realm. With all the imperfections of the American society in its early days, God was a real participant in it, one whose Word was always the first to be heeded. Theonomy may have not been known or used as a word in those days but it was certainly the standard of the day, for both the individual and the culture. But today, with our proud rejection of the Law of God and our foolish reliance on the laws and words of men, we witness a world crumbling under its own weight, unable to make any rhyme or reason of what is going on and how it is to be resolved.
And Theonomy is what we need to return to if we want to deal with the confusion we have today. Politicians are all wrong: God doesn’t endorse the imaginations of fallen men. Gerson is wrong too: God is not detached from the details of our human policy-making. Both Gerson and the politicians must return to the Law of God as revealed in the Bible and look there for guidance, philosophical and practical, if we want to avoid the judgment that is coming upon this nation. Our present-day problems are caused by our rejection of the ultimate ethical system God has decreed for His creation; nothing less than a return to that ethical system will suffice. Humanism-cynicism will only produce more confusion, and eventually destruction. God is not mocked.