In the December 2023 issue of Ligonier’s Tabletalk devotional, Gene Edward Veith has a helpful article titled “Catechized by Culture.” Presbyterians are big on catechisms. They mostly deal with fundamental biblical doctrines. For example, the first question of the Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Standards is “What is the chief end of man?” Vieth supplies the answer: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” The answer given in the secular culture catechism is “People’s chief end is to glorify themselves, and to enjoy themselves until they die.” The major difference between the two catechisms is that while some Christians might teach the catechism or refer to it periodically, the secular catechism is taught and applied 24/7.
One of the shortcomings of so much theological teaching today is that it’s limited in scope and application. Rarely do you find sermons that spend time on how the Bible applies to what’s happening in our culture and how to fix it. To be honest, most if not all catechisms do not address issues like economics, government overreach, education, taxation, monetary policy, the dangers of wealth distribution, and many other real-world issues that the Bible addresses. How many more debates, articles, and books do we need on baptism?
The following is an application of the Ten Commandments and how they’ve been coopted by the secularists. I tackled many of these worldview issues in my book God and Government that makes the point that government is not synonymous with politics. It would make a great Christmas gift for your pastor.
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John Wycliffe of Oxford University produced the first hand-written translation of the New Testament into English in the 14th Century, he wrote in the preface: “The Bible is given for the government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” The Bible was not given only for religious people of a particular theological persuasion; it was designed to be a standard for everyone and every government—self-, family, church, and civil. This is why you will find the Ten Commandments in American law and government from its earliest days.
As Chief Justice Warren Burger noted in his majority opinion of Lynch v. Donnelly (1984), the Supreme Court Chamber where judicial cases related to religion are “heard is decorated with a notable and permanent-not seasonal-symbol of religion: Moses with the Ten Commandments.”
In addition to the Supreme Court, state courtrooms and capitols across our land have housed similar displays for decades without any legal challenges or constitutional prohibitions: The Texas State Capitol, the chambers of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and scores of other legislatures, courthouses, and other public buildings. “In fact, the Ten Commandments are more easily found in America’s government buildings than in her religious buildings, thus demonstrating the understanding by generations of Americans from coast to coast that the Ten Commandments formed the basis of America’s civil laws.”
Without the declaration of the first two commandments, there can’t be an ultimate justification of the commandments that follow, including those against murder (sixth), theft (eighth), and perjury (ninth). This is why an appeal to natural law fails, especially since evolution killed any notion of a fixed transcendent law can be found in nature. There are no moral absolutes given the operating assumptions of materialists who advocate a something from nothing origin of life and survival of the fittest worldview.
God died in the nineteenth century and Nietzsche danced on his grave. The foundation of the external moral law was destroyed and, in its place, was a vacuum, soon gleefully filled by the narcotics of Nazism and Communism. It may not be possible to say that the death of God led directly to the death ovens; but equally, nobody can ignore the fact that the cruelest era in history was also the first to deny the existence of an external moral force.
The Ten Commandments has been that fixed summary standard in America since its founding. As Nightline host Ted Koppel stated in a 1987 commencement address at Duke University, “What Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai were not the Ten Suggestions. They are commandments. Are, not were. The sheer brilliance of the Ten Commandments is that they codify in a handful of words acceptable human behavior, not just for then or now, but for all time. Language evolves. Power shifts from one nation to another. Messages are transmitted with the speed of light. Man erases one frontier after another. And yet we and our behavior and the commandments governing that behavior remain the same.”
Here’s a sample of how secularists don’t deny commandments but reimage them to fit their naturalistic worldview for their benefit:
The First Commandment states that there is only one God, and only He can save us. The secular State believes it is God and only it can save us. Consider the following from former Senator, Secretary of State during Barack Obama’s second presidential term, and current “Climate Envoy” John Kerry:
When you start to think about it, it’s pretty extraordinary that we — select group of human beings because of whatever touched us at some point in our lives—are able to sit in a room and come together and actually talk about saving the planet… I mean, it’s so almost extraterrestrial to think about saving the planet. If you say that to most people, most people think you’re just a crazy, tree-hugging, lefty liberal, you know, do-gooder, or whatever, and there’s no relationship. But really, that’s where we are.
The Second Commandment, related to the First Commandment, forbids idolatry, of making images and worshiping them. Governments continue to make idols to themselves. You will find busts, statues, and paintings of government leaders across the national landscape. Some of these idols have gotten bizarre and surrealistically satanic like the 8-foot bronze statue outside a New York City courthouse of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court. Ginsburg is celebrated for her fierce defense of killing unborn babies. “Was there any public input whatsoever before a satanic golden medusa demon with tentacle arms was installed atop a downtown courthouse?,” NYC Councilwoman Vickie Paladino asked.
The State has become an idol and is worshipped as a god when the Bible declares that it is to be a “minister [servant] of God to [us] for good” (Rom. 13:4). The State continues to grow with the promise of political salvation.
The Third Commandment forbids taking God’s name in vain. Politicians appeal to God all the time and yet violate His commandments in the same breath. On February 2, 2012, as the annual National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama began by “giving all praise and honor to God for bringing us together here today.” He then quoted or paraphrased at least ten passages from the Bible. President Obama referenced God—even singing “Amazing Grace”—in his eulogy for Rev. Pinckney in 2015 and soon after celebrated the Supreme Court’s ruling making same-sex marriage the law of the land specifically contrary to the Bible he so freely quoted in 2012. This is taking God’s name in vain. It’s not only Democrats who take God’s name in vain. Republican presidents have done it as well. “In 1973, April 30th to be exact, Richard Nixon delivered a television address to the nation trying to explain away the growing Watergate scandal that led to his resignation, ending his speech with the words, ‘God bless America and God bless each and every one of you.’” The worst violation of the Third Commandment is using God to support wars. There are many examples throughout history. The result is that the majesty of God is emptied of any significance.
The Fourth Commandment sets one day a week aside for rest. The interesting thing about this commandment is that it’s found in Article I, Section 7, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution: “…. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law….” There is much debate over how Sabbath laws should be interpreted and applied. A one-day rest is based on creation in that even God rested (Gen. 2:2-3; Heb. 4:4-6). However the Fourth Commandment is interpreted and applied, the State does not own our time. The French Revolutionaries understood this principle so well that they wanted to destroy it. Not only did they start their revolutionary calendar with a New Year One, but the revolutionaries also transformed the seven-day creation calendar into a ten-day week. For example, “a year before the Revolution, the notorious atheist Sylvain Maréchal designed his own system, eliminating the saint days of the Roman Catholic year and replacing Christmas with Newton’s December 25th birthday.” The French Enlightenment represented four main related themes: atheism, secularism, naturalism, and rationalism. Even so, it was still religious. “The Jacobins and others established their ‘Cult of Reason,’ or their ‘Cult of the Supreme Being,’ re-dedicating churches as temples of reason, and enacting a festival in that ideal’s name upon the altar of Notre Dame. But ultimately temples are places of faith, no matter how loud the denials. A cult is still a cult, after all.”
The Fifth Commandment defines the family. The courts have redefined the family, and by redefining the family they can now rewrite all laws in terms of that new definition that includes same-sex marriage, polygamy, pedophilia, and even bestiality. (See the Seventh Commandment.) As a result of rejecting God’s Commandments, the State has become the parent to millions of people made dependent on civil government for everything: “The paternal state not only feeds its children, but nurtures, educates, comforts, and disciplines them, providing all they need for their security. This appears to be a mildly insulting way to treat adults, but it is really a great crime because it transforms the state from being a gift of God, given to protect us against violence, into an idol. It supplies us with all blessings, and we look to it for all our needs. Once we sink to that level, as [C.S.] Lewis says, there is no point in telling state officials to mind their own business. ‘Our whole lives are their business.’”
The Sixth Commandment was legislated out of existence decades ago by sanctioning perpetual war and the legalization of killing unborn children called abortion. “[A Minnesota] bill not only allows for abortions for any reason through all nine months of pregnancy, but what it does to strip away parental rights is abhorrent,” State Sen. Julia Coleman said. “It not only allows this for minors, but it also allows for minors’ sterilization without parental consent or notification.” Voters in Ohio made the right for women to kill their unborn children a constitutional amendment.
The Seventh Commandment in its prohibition of adultery is a summary statement about all marital relationships. The law prohibiting adultery rests on the creation mandate of marriage being between a man and a woman (Gen. 1:27-28; 2:20-25). The compliment of man and woman is what’s “suitable,” not a man and man or a woman and a woman. Jesus confirmed the creation mandate (Matt. 19:1-6). Even some supposed orthodox Christians have fallen into the trap that the Ten Commandments only apply to personal Christian morality and not the State. Consider the following from Todd Bordow, pastor of an Orthodox Presbyterian congregation in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, about bestiality:
Not being a theonomist [an advocate for God’s law that applies to believers and unbelievers alike] or theocrat [someone who believes that God is the ultimate lawgiver], I do not believe it is the state’s role to enforce religion or Christian morality. So allowing something legally is not the same as endorsing it morally. I don’t want the state punishing people for practicing homosexuality. Other Christians disagree. Fine. That’s allowed. That is the distinction. Another example—beastiality [sic] is a grotesque sin and obviously if a professing member engages in it he is subject to church discipline. But as one who leans libertarian in my politics, I would see problems with the state trying to enforce it; not wanting the state involved at all in such personal practices; I’m content to let the Lord judge it when he returns. A fellow church member might advocate for beastiality [sic] laws. Neither would be in sin whatever the side of the debate. Now if the lines are blurry in these distinctions, that is always true in pastoral ministry dealing with real people in real cases in this fallen world.
Does such a libertarian ethic apply to the Sixth Commandment against murder? Because atheistic evolution is the official religion of the State, how is any act punishable? The answer is simple: the State, as God, makes its own laws. If the State is not obligated to enforce God’s view of morality (we’re back to the First and Second Commandments), then the State will enforce some other religion’s morality or its own morality since all morality is based on some overriding belief system. Statism is a religion, and Statists make up their own commandments. Commandments are inescapable.
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The Eighth Commandment prohibits stealing. Our nation’s outrageous taxing system is based on theft when people are given the right to vote to take money from some people so it can be given to other people, typically, themselves. If it’s wrong for individuals to confiscate someone’s property, is it morally justified for a group of individuals to band together and vote for people in power to take money from some people so it can be given to other people?
The Bible is a material book, and material things matter to God (1 Tim. 4:4), including economic matters like goods, commodities, contracts, employee/employer relationships, debt, property, restitution, taxation, the tithe, the best way to help the poor, etc. We know this by the way the Bible presents economic issues within a specific creational and moral framework. A person who will not work does not get to eat: “For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread” (2 Thess. 3:10). Of course, there are exceptions. A person might be physically unable to work. The best way to handle these exceptions is on the individual level. Instead, our national and state governments have subsidized bad behavior and forced other people to pay for it, and as a result, got more of what they were trying to remedy.
Inflation is the increase in the money supply. What entity has control of the money supply? Governments. How do governments create money? They print or digitize it and use it to bribe voters which in the end dilutes the buying power of their money on hand which then results in higher prices as more dollars chase the same number of goods thus driving up prices. Governments do what individuals and businesses are not permitted to do. They create Ponzi schemes like Social Security and counterfeit.
The Ninth Commandment prohibits bearing false witness. Politicians bear false witness with almost every word they speak. Consider the following statement from presidential candidate Barack Obama that he gave on April 17, 2008, when he was campaigning for the presidency: “I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian, it’s also a sacred union. God’s in the mix.” Hillary Clinton said something similar. They now wholeheartedly support same-sex marriage and every other sexual perversion.
The Tenth Commandment is an indictment on the modern State and those who support it because civil governments covet everything: power, property, authority, money, prestige, privilege, liberty, and our children. Naboth’s vineyard comes to mind (1 Kings 21). When the State can’t obtain all things for itself, it makes it illegal for anyone else to possess it. Governments covet individual liberty, and they don’t want anyone else to have it but them. Jesus condemned the covetousness of power and authority even among His followers:
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him. And He said to her, “What do you desire?” She said to Him, “Say that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine shall sit, one at Your right, and one at Your left.” But Jesus replied, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to Him, “We are able.” He said to them, “My cup you shall drink; but to sit at My right and at My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.” And after hearing this, the other ten disciples became indignant with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the nations exercise lordship [see 1 Pet. 5:3] over them, and those in high position exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wants to become prominent among you shall be your servant, and whoever desires to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:20-28).
The latest persistent example is cake baker Jack Phillips who refused to decorate a cake celebrating a homosexual wedding. The state of Colorado continues to harass him by denying him the liberty to say no to messages he objects to. Every person, religious or not, should have the same liberty. But because people with agendas don’t like individual liberty (except their own), they want to use the power of the State to deny other people’s liberty. In Colorado, a baker can refuse to make a cake with an anti-LGBTQ+ message on it, but a baker cannot refuse to add a pro-LGBTQ+ message on it.
In J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, the power of the ring is not something to be desired even by good people. The goal is to destroy it. When Boromir fails to avoid the ring’s power, he dies. Even Gandalf and the elves shun the power of the ring. Tolkien is doubtful that any person can resist the temptation of absolute power promised by the ring, even if that power is used for good. That is one of the great themes of the series.
 U.S. Supreme Court Lynch v. Donnelley, 465 U.S. 668 (decided March 5, 1984), II.C.
 David Barton, “The Ten Commandments: A Part of America’s Legal System for Almost 400 years!,” Prepared and presented in response to multiple ACLU lawsuits against public displays of the Ten Commandments, United States District Court, Eastern District Court, Eastern District of Kentucky, London Division (March 2001).
 Bryan Appleyard, review of Jonathan Glover, Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century in The Sunday Times (December 1999). Quoted in Vaughan Roberts, God’s Big Design: Life as he Intends it to Be (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 27.
 Ted Koppel, The Last Word, Commencement Address at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina (May 10, 1987). Quoted in Robert H. Bork, The Tempting of America: The Political Seduction of the Law (New York: The Free Press, 1989), 164.
 From a speech Kerry gave at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 17, 2023.
 Mark A. Noll, America’s Book: The Rise and Decline of a Bible Civilization, 1794-1911 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2022), 1-2.
 Charles A. Gliozzo, “The Philosophes and Religion: Intellectual Origins of the Dechristianization Movement in the French Revolution,” Church History, 40:3 (September 1971).
 Ed Simon, “Why the French Revolution’s ‘Rational’ Calendar Wasn’t,” JSTOR Daily (May 23, 2018): Source
Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction: Christian Faith and its Confrontation with American Society (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1983), 183-184.
 “‘Barbaric’ Minnesota abortion bill lambasted by state senator: ‘Future generations will look back in horror,’” Fox News (January 30, 2023): https://fxn.ws/3SQoZrz
 Brett McAfee, Saved to be Warriors: Exposing the Errors of Radical Two-Kingdom Theology (Aalten, The Netherlands: Pantocrator Press. 2023), 123.