Oppression vs. Protection: Thoughts on Public Policy

Paul Dean

Christians are called upon to influence our culture for Christ. As Francis Schaeffer commented: "...we must realize that regardless of whether we think the Moral Majority has always said the right things or whether we do not, or whether we think they have made some mistakes or whether we do not, they have certainly done one thing right: they have used the freedom we still have in the political arena to stand against the other total entity. They have carried the fact that law is king, law is above the lawmakers, and God is above the law into this area of life where it always should have been. And this is a part of true spirituality. The Moral Majority has drawn a line between one total view of reality and the results this brings forth in government and law. And if you personally do not like some of the details of what they have done, do it better. But you must understand that all Christians have got to do the same kind of thing or you are simply not showing the Lordship of Christ in the totality of life." Thus, to show the Lordship of Christ in our lives and then in the totality of life, we must work for a moral society through the preaching of the gospel and the propagation of the Christian worldview.


Note those two dynamics well: the preaching of the gospel and the propagation of the Christian worldview. Those endeavors are a must. The question lies, as Schaeffer implies, in how we go about such. Even if we disagree with Schaeffer himself in terms of how, we must agree with the Moral Majority and Schaeffer in terms of what: gospel preaching and Christian worldview propagation. For me, the issue is public acknowledgment of God without coercion. We must fight for a voice at the table of public debate and opinion. We must propagate a biblical worldview through all available, legal, and biblical means. We must fight for the acknowledgment of God in the public square without forcing others by law to embrace our view, that is, without oppressing others in the process.


Now, no one has a right not to hear God-talk in the public square or a right not to see religious emblems on display in public. Our First Amendment gives us the right to freedom of religion and the right to free speech. Those of the ACLU variety who argue for the removal of God from the public square do not understand the First Amendment nor do they understand the principles of freedom. But, all have a right to choose what they believe.


I fear some Christians are confused on the issues when we fight for our rights to have God-talk in the public square. For example, a woman called into a Christian radio talk show recently. Her neighbor had a small statue of Buddha in her yard. The caller wanted to know what could be done to prohibit her neighbor from maintaining such a display. She wanted the statue removed. The wonderful thing is that nothing can be done. We have freedom of religion and freedom of speech in this country. We certainly agree that those who worship Buddha are lost and need Christ. But, if we want the right to display the Ten Commandments, we must grant others the right to display their religious artifacts. Moreover, this statue was on private property. The right to display religious artifacts on private property is not in question. The issue is whether nor not such can be displayed in the public square. We would argue for such a right there as well.


But the issue lies in the attitude of this Christian woman who called into the radio program. She wants to limit the rights of others. Most thinking individuals would readily point out her error. Yet, I fear this error is repeated all too often, even by those who would point the woman's error out, when they transfer these issues to the public arena. Remember, we must be involved in the proclamation of the gospel and the propagation of the Christian worldview. The question is whether we legislate such and oppress others or whether we focus on influencing the members of our society through ideas. The pen is mightier than the sword.


To raise other issues and thoughts on public policy, on our own radio program, I was asked a question concerning whether nor not I would want to outlaw abortion and upon what grounds. In my response regarding abortion, some would say that I slipped into a theonomic position by saying abortion is against God's law, implying that the state should outlaw it. The truth is that abortion is against God's law. From a Christian worldview perspective, it is both legitimate and necessary to declare such in addition to the principle of right to life and the role of the state as protector.


Other Christians would say that in public policy debate, Christians should not appeal to the fact that abortion is against God's law. They would say we must always come back to a fundamental premise of why we have a government, not a state, and go from there. No movie censorship and abortion is outlawed since government's role is to protect us from predators. I understand that issue and have repeatedly made that point clearly. There is no confusion on my part. However, as Christians think and then seek to influence culture, there are other arguments to be made depending upon one's audience and goal. The goal must never be to merely win an argument in the political arena. The goal must ever be to glorify God and advance the gospel.


If I am asked why abortion is wrong, I will firmly say it is wrong because God says it is wrong. To say anything else without saying that is compromise and sin regardless of the venue. At the same time, if I am asked why the state should outlaw abortion, I will certainly appeal to principles of liberty: God granted and unalienable.


Let's take it a step further. I don't mind saying to some that there are natural rights. The problem is that natural rights do not exist apart from God. Moreover, the natural rights argument apart from God is even less persuasive than God-centered arguments, even to atheists. To appeal to natural rights coming from somewhere but not God is always going to be subjective and arbitrary. No logical consensus can be had. For an unbeliever or an atheist to affirm the natural right to life is by necessity logically untenable. The only way to affirm any right to life is to affirm a Creator. In debate of any kind, we may indeed talk about natural law, but not to the exclusion of a moral absolute handed down by our Creator. We cannot enter into public debate from a neutral perspective. To do so is to compromise the gospel/truth and give up the only position and argument that can make sense of the reality in which we find ourselves. (See Cornelius Van Til for further explanation on a presuppositional approach to Christian apologetics and the fact that we may never take a position of neutrality in philosophical debate).


[Part Three Tomorrow]