Part #1: Ink and Stone or Freedom
DISCLAIMER: This is a research paper which provides material for a morning sermon and an afternoon seminar. It is not meant to be "preached." It is not "preachable" but will provide material for a powerful "Freedom of Conscience" sermon. While our 28 fundamentals do not provide a "Freedom of Conscience" (Religious Liberty) statement it was the first battle fought in the Jewish - Gentile conflict in Galatia. The battle was over "conscience" and food. Table manners was the issue it is still an issue in many places today. We need to correctly identify the problem as conscience."
By Pastor C. Norman Farley
“Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17
Part # 1. The Doctrine of Freedom of Conscience
(Designed for the Sabbath Morning Worship service)
This morning hour we will begin to turn our thoughts to several of the most hotly debated topics in today’s society. We will spend considerable time focusing on the development of the biblical doctrine of “Freedom of Conscience.” Next in this series, following a potluck, we will consider the problem which “secrecy” and “coercion” present both in the church and a free society. At prayer meeting we will consider the “immorality of morality.” We will begin this morning by noting that the doctrine of “freedom of conscience is tied directly to the gospel – Jesus says so. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news (gospel) to the poor… to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Luke 4:18. The transition of the gospel from Jewish Theocracy to Gentile Secular Society meant that the creation of a new paradigm was necessary. So Paul planted a church in the secular city of Corinth. Corinth was the San Francisco of the day. How he approached the problems at Corinth will provide us with some significant insights as to how church members are to relate to one another - and to secular society which surrounds them. We will also consider both ancient and modern coercive “methodologies” used to destroy freedom. Corinth presents an example of a morally-degen-erate ancient society. The Church at Corinth was also immersed in moral corruption. Scripture clearly reveals the methodology Paul followed to bring healing to the church without seeking help from the government. He also avoided proposing a political solution for the social ills present in Corinth other than the gospel.
Planting a church in Corinth was a bold venture. It was located on the Isthmus between the Saronic Gulf on the east and the Gulf of Corinth on the west. It was a market for much of the trade that flowed from Asia to Europe. Because of its wealth, trade, and luxury it was eventually titled, “The Paris of Antiquity.” The principal deity was Aphrodite. Aphrodite represented love at its lowest level, licentious passion, and sensuality - eros. The temple of Apollo resided on the Acro-Corinthus. The temple housed 1,000 beautiful young women who officiated as courtesans, or public prostitutes. From the proceeds of their vice the city received a steady income. It can be assumed that Paul planted a church here so that the gospel could easily be spread from East to West. He certainly understood that the power of the gospel would meet its biggest challenge in a large secular environment like Corinth. In a word, similar promiscuity exists in some of the cities of our nation.
Any hope Paul had entertained for love, peace, and joy in the church at Corinth were soon abandoned. Divisions and factions developed and immorality invaded the small Christian community both from within and without. Members became involved in fornication and prostitution and they sought to defend their lustful actions by hiding behind Greek dualism. The body, they contended, and the Spirit were separate - thus lust was of no eternal consequence since the body was not eternal. Soon jealousy, strife, and grievances erupted and members sought relief in the civil courts. One is, therefore, not surprised to discover that the Lord's Supper had turned into a gluttonous feast. The Corinthian church was not a happy place and members there were not “happy campers.” Instead polarization and anger were distinctive features at Corinth. This makes it a spiritual textbook for Christians trying to survive in the polarized society of America. As we observe how Paul handled this, out of control situation, we should gather some insights to help us navigate through the secular society which we inhabit.
The New Testament is very precise on certain issues -- there are 2 kingdoms - the “Kingdom of God” and the “Kingdoms of this World.” Jesus made this very clear and Paul understood His words, “Render to Caesar what is his and God what is His." (Mark 12:17) Paul, therefore, separates the spiritual realm from the temporal realm (see Romans 13). A Christian’s focus is on the Kingdom of God, therefore, Christians make excellent citizens because "love, mercy, and justice" dictate their adventure while in the temporal realm. The scripture is very positive that it is never a Christian's duty to attempt to create a “Christian society” through the “political process.” Christians recognize that the ballot box is not the answer to man’s dilemma. Unfortunately, this is an agenda which is being ruthlessly pressed on our nation today. Frank Schaffer and John Whitehead were both founders and ardent supporters of the "religious right" - the “moral agenda crowd.” They believe it is their Christian duty to bring about the “Kingdom of God” through the “Political Process” in the here and now. After more than 25 years of leadership in the “religious right,” Frank Schaffer and John Whitehead have both abandoned that ship - they saw it for what it was - a shipwreck. Here is what Frank Schaffer said: "My basic beef with the Reconstructionists, the most hard-core faction of the religious right is that they could never end a sentence with “I don't know or I'm not sure.” They always ended with “this is how it is” and that level of hubris runs counter to Christianity... because faith and doubt are interchangeable, but you live with that when you reject pluralism. If freedom scares you, you have to be right, and when you don't have the answer for someone - you will shout them down.” (“Theocracy Rejected: Former Christian Right Leaders Fess Up”, Church and State, Bob Boston, March 10, 2008). Based on this description, by chief proponents of the Moral Majority, we might be justified to conclude that much of today’s religion and media hype is built on a lot of hubris - pride and arrogance. But Christians don’t perform on either pride or arrogance but on the basis of faith and move from “faith to faith!”
It is sad, but factual to note, that hubris sells both in the pulpit and the media. Media especially thrives on pride and arrogance - big time because it sells! Many well meaning but ill informed clergy, have, through the use of spurious methods combined to persuade a large portion of the population that America was established as a Christian Nation. They contend that secularism/humanism has destroyed America and that a Christian Nation must be re-established by the implementation of a “moral agenda.” This segment of society believes that the marriage of religion and politics will heal the ills of our secular society. The agenda to accomplish this has been created in “secrecy” behind closed doors - and behind closed doors is where freedom always dies. As a result, “moral issues” divide the nation. There is the "right" and the "left" it's Bill O'Reilly or Keith Olbermann and devotees do not switch channels. There are “Conservatives” and “Liberals,” the “Moral Majority” and the “Secularists” but not “We the people.” This is why Paul was so zealous in his attention to the Corinthians. He desired for the power of the gospel to dispense with divisions and immorality - but he wasn’t requesting any assistance from the politicians of Corinth or Rome. Please note - he was not asking the politicians to help the church with a “moral agenda” or a change in Roman law. You will not find any reference in the N.T. where the gospel required assistance from the state!
A second letter to the Corinthians contained memories of his struggles with the church at Galatia, which he had previously visited. In Galatia he encountered Judaizers. These were the sophisticated religious agenda crowd from Jerusalem who desired to have power over “believers.” In order to accomplish this end, they advocated that the performance of Jewish laws and rituals were necessary to belong to their club. The scripture says they were "False brethren secretly brought in... to spy out our freedom... that they might bring us into bondage…" (Galatians 2:4). There are three key words here which play a central role in our study today. They are secrecy, freedom, and bondage. (Repeat it with me – secrecy, freedom, and bondage.) The secret brethren held that circumcision, the performance of the Mosaic Laws, and as we will learn in 1st Corinthians, table etiquette was essential to salvation. In fact, these Judaizers advocated that belonging to their club was a necessary component of the Gospel. So they believed, and so they taught in “secret.” The Apostle Paul immediately saw through their club plan. These Judaizers put the old rules of Judaism in place so that new Christians could be considered “good Christians.” Paul knew that this would short circuit the work of the Holy Spirit and make the Gentiles slaves to requirements that had nothing to do with “faith.” He understood that if this agenda was permitted to survive it would destroy both Christianity and the gospel in the Gentile world. So Paul takes a firm stand that they, the Judaizers, had totally compromised the gospel. He doesn’t care what headquarters they came from or what credentials or titles they possess. He goes so far as to say that even if an angel came down from heaven preaching the same thing, it would be falsehood, and that angel should be “accursed.” So when Paul writes his 2nd letter to the believers in Corinth he goes straight to the heart of the matter. He says there is an eternal difference between a “moral code” written with “ink on stone” and “the spirit of God written on the tablets of the human heart.” (2nd Corinthians 3:3-6) He is observing a simple fact some live by “do and don’ts” and some by “faith.”
The “moral code” of “ink and stone” theology he says kills but the way of the spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6). He calls this a new (renewed) covenant. When Paul speaks of “ink and stone” he has in mind the coercive issues of the secret brethren; circumcision, the law of Moses, and as we shall discover, table etiquette and food. Next he speaks of a “veil” and “hardened hearts” and the “old covenant.” (2nd Corinthians 3:12-14) You can feel Paul’s mind going back to the Damascus Road when he was known as Saul. He had a veil over his eyes - his heart was hard. He didn't believe Jesus was Messiah. On the Damascus Road the veil was removed - and though he was physically blinded – spiritually, he saw. When he met Jesus on the Damascus Road, he saw “moral code” "ink and stone” theology for what it was – bankrupt. On the Damascus Road something new was born - "spirit and freedom" theology based on “faith.” That is why he breaks forth with one of the most profound statements in the New Testament: "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." (2nd Corinthians 3:17). He makes it clear that the veil drops when “a man turns to the Lord.” (2nd Corinthians 3:16) – not circumcision, not Mosaic Law, not table manners and not politics. He never asked the state for help because a Christian has a very different agenda!
If we gather up what Scripture has taught us so far, we learn that there are several methodologies by which people live and practice.
1. Some practice an agenda of secrecy which thrives on coercion and bondage - people practiced it in O.T. times and it has proven to be an effective methodology in today’s society.
2. Others practice Freedom and live by the spirit. Many lived that way in O.T. times. (Hebrews 11). Christianity is not a religion of rigidity – Christians just move from “faith to faith.”
3. Next Paul is going to define the how and why of freedom. He wants to make it clear how church members, be they Jew or Gentile, are to relate to each other. He also wants Christians to understand how to relate to non-Christians, as well as to Christian Jews and Greeks. He accomplishes this by dealing with the table etiquette and food issues which arose in Galatia and Corinth.
YOU SAY TABLE ETIQUETTE AND FOOD COULD NOT BE AN ISSUE!
Many years ago I built a church in a different part of the nation. There were a wonderful group of Christians full of faith who believed in the impossible and the impossible happened and 50 members watched as the God of heaven built a new church next door to a large well known University. It grew and prospered, but many years later something happened - the question of table etiquette and food arose! 34 years had passed since the church was completed and I requested to return to preach. When I arrived on Sabbath morning, the front door was locked so I went to the rear where there was only one car. I entered by the rear to discover a total congregation of 4. Now, they had just been assigned a new pastor - I asked where he was, well he was on the University campus preaching to the college students who had abandoned the church because of etiquette and food issues. Now the Judaizers were not content to impose only circumcision and the Law of Moses on Gentiles. To join their exclusive society one needed a more extensive “moral agenda.” There are many Christians who understand and practice healthful living but rightfully separate table etiquette issues from salvation issues – the Judaizers could not.
Jerusalem had convened the first church council; Paul and Barnabas were there and they listened while Peter gave a powerful sermon. Now brethren, he said, "You know, God doesn't make a distinction between Jews and Gentiles and that he cleanses the heart by faith - now don't place on the Gentiles a yoke that none of our forefathers could bare - but let them be saved by grace just as we will." (Acts 15:7–11). Peter clearly announces a “no ink and stone theology” for Christians – its gospel only!
NOW THE ADVICE PETER GAVE WAS SIMPLE BUT INCOMPLETE FOR CORINTH:
“Do not trouble the Gentiles, who turned to God but ask them to abstain from the pollution of Idols, from unchastity, and from what is strangled or from blood.” (Acts 15:19-21). In short, don’t worship idols, no fornication or prostitution and eat kosher meat. Now Paul was at the council and listened intently to the council’s decision. It is clear that when the question of table etiquette and food came up in Corinth, Paul had spent considerable time carefully thinking through the issues which arose in Galatia but the issues in Corinth had not been thoroughly addressed.
How is it possible to reconcile Jews who came from a background of Theocracy to Gentiles who came from a background of Paganism without alienating either? The Jewish problem is presented clearly in the second chapter of Galatians. Peter had been openly eating with Gentiles but when the Judaizers arrived from Jerusalem his table etiquette changed and he abruptly left the table! The Judaizers from conference headquarters probably contended that circumcised Jews should not share a common table with uncircumcised Gentiles. Paul, however, understood the serious nature of Peter’s behavior so he openly confronted Peter. In doing so, Paul trumpets the gospel over the out-dated cultural mores of Theocracy and Jewish law. He insists on a new paradigm which transcends the cultural mores of both Jews and Gentiles.
To the Jerusalem Jews, the original issue had been eating with uncircumcised Gentiles but in Corinth, eating meat from the pagan temple was also a potential violation of both the Jewish and Gentile conscience. Furthermore, when animals were sacrificed in pagan temples, kosher rules were not practiced and guards in the heathen temple sold some of the meat at the public market – so several questions of concern arose.
Here is Paul’s bold proposition - “There is neither Jew nor Greek. . .” Galatians 3:28. The problem in Corinth was quite different in that the church had many Christian Gentiles who had come out of paganism. To eat food which had been offered to pagan Idols in the pagan temple was now offensive to their weak conscience. The Jews, of course, understood that idols had no real existence so it did not present the same conscience problem to them. We recognize similar cultural problems today in trying to bring Democracy to a Theocratic nation like Iraq. Several serious questions which affected conscience arose.
1. Is it proper to buy food at the market which comes from the pagan temple and eat it?
2. Is it proper to eat such food when visiting the home of a heathen friend?
It is at this very juncture that Paul establishes a new precedent. He admonishes - be respectful of all religious/cultural mores, and, by this, he reaffirms and establishes the biblical doctrine of "Freedom of Conscience.” It is one of the most significant spiritual doctrines of the Christian faith for "Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom." Not only does the scripture develop the doctrine of the “Freedom of Conscience” but The America Constitution was founded on the principle of "Freedom of Conscience" - not on “moral theology” nor “moral agendas.” “Moral theology is a term used by the Roman Catholic Church to describe the study of God from a perspective of how a man must live in order to attain the presence or favor of God”1
It is right at this juncture where the prime difference lies between Catholicism and Protestantism. Protestantism began its journey built on “By faith alone.” Protestantism is a re-birth of Peter’s address to the First Church Council. Protestant morals rest on “For freedom Christ has set us free. . . For in Jesus Christ circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail but faith working through love. . . But I say walk by the spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. . . But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law. . . But the fruit of the spirit love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self control: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5: 1-22). Now with this “Spirit theology” Paul offers up some very sound advice. The Christian who develops under the “Spirit” dispenses with “moral theology” and “moral agendas” because it is “ink and stone theology” and those who hold onto “moral agendas” as a mode of salvation live under the “old covenant” and develop “hearts of stone.” Those who have met the Messiah have discovered the “freedom” of the “New Covenant” and develop “soft hearts” because the “Spirit” is writing on their heart - not coercing artificial “moral agendas.” Let us very carefully note that Paul is not advocating that “Freedom in the Spirit” promotes license to sin or to nurture the “flesh” - this is what he desired the “Spirit” to correct in Corinth. (See Romans 6:22).
Well, let’s see how Paul develops the ministry of the “Spirit” and “Freedom of Conscience.” He begins, "We all know that idols have no real existence and that there is only one God - but not all possess this knowledge while it is true, we are no better off or worse off if we eat - but your liberty (freedom) might wound the conscience of a "weak brother" by getting him to indulge in conduct that conflicts with his conscience. Here is Paul’s and the N.T. statement of “Freedom of Conscience.” You are “free” in Christ to practice what your “conscience,” led by the “Spirit,” dictates - but you are not “free” to offend a brother – that is not how the “Spirit” works. Then he adds, "Knowledge puffs up but love builds up." "All things may be lawful but not all things are helpful, give no offense to Jew or to Greek or to the church of God.” Give careful study to 1st Corinthians chapters 8 through 10. Our First Amendment was established on the concept of the “Freedom of Conscience.” Now let’s make another ringing statement – “Freedom of Conscience is not Judaeo - it is Pauline N. T. Christianity. Judaism was based on Theocracy - Christianity is not! “Let freedom ring from every mountainside” does not have it’s genesis in Theocracy but in Democracy. Democracy, in the form of a Republic, espouses respect for both the majority and minority” – respect for the conscience of both the weak and the strong. Respect for those who hold to a “moral agenda” and for those who operate by the “Spirit.” This means that a Christian is to respect the “conscience” of Jews, Christians, Theists, Deists, Agnostics, Atheists and Secularists. This establishes pluralism and flies in the face of Dominionism and the “Moral Majority” who secretly seek to eliminate every candidate from political office except Christians. It is these who work by “secrecy and coercion” that Paul assigns to “anathema” – eternal damnation. The N.T. makes a clear biblical statement of pluralism. Pluralism, however, does not imply plurality of the gospel. Paul will not countenance plurality of the gospel – this too is “anathema” - eternal damnation.
There were those in the church, either Jews or Greeks, and in the community heathen, who were of "weak conscience.” The Scriptural advice is " Take care that your liberty (your freedom of conscience) does not become a stumbling block.” (1st Corinthians 8:9). Let the stronger be considerate of the “weaker.” What is true of food is true of theology - there are “Conservatives” and “Liberals,” the “Right” and the “Left,” and all those in between. In society there are the “Secular humanists, Atheists, and Agnostics.” We are a pluralistic community just as Corinth was. Next, Paul goes right to the heart of the issue - "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” Here, Paul is sounding the death knell to Gnosticism (esoteric knowledge). He is dispensing with “knowledge” as a unifying principle because it is built on hubris. This does not imply, however, that a Christian is to sit idly by while the “world heads for hell in a hand basket.” What it does imply is that the Church is not the world and that a Christian is not commanded to make a “Christian community” out of “secular society.” Christians are commanded, however, to preach but never to “compel or coerce.” The “compel” story in Luke 15:23 was picked up by Augustine, refined by Thomas Aquinas, and adopted by the Inquisition – the use of religious/civil power to enforce “morality.” Paul is very specific that “freedom of conscience” is a scriptural mandate to respect the conscience of those in secular society who may not be led by the “Spirit.” The church may, on occasion, use biblical discipline for its members but civil society has its own set of laws which Christians are enjoined to obey. (Romans 13). The exception, of course, is when a civil law violates ones conscience and “it is better to obey God than man.” We are especially instructed by this rule of “freedom of conscience” not to invent “secret” and “coercive” methods, political or otherwise, to force those in secular society into an “ink and stone” morality. Luther contended that the only reason a Christian went to war was because the scripture commanded “love for our neighbor;” so one was never to go to war for his good but for the good of his neighbor only. Christians will certainly seek remedies to keep society a responsible and respectable place, but they do it for “love of neighbor and self” which may never include “secret or coercive” methods. They will act in a non-secret and legal manner seeking to preserve the inalienable rights of conscience endorsed by scripture and guaranteed by the constitution. This, of course, may involve the use of the judicial system. Now let's see what Scripture has taught and how this applies to us today and the world we live in.
1. The "secret and coercive moral code” crowd will always exist. Paul labels them the “ink and stone theologians.” They create their agenda in secrecy and their coercive message always leads to bondage of the conscience.
2. There is the "spirit and freedom" crowd - they understand that Christ has set them free – but they also understand that while "All things are lawful for me" - not all things are helpful. (1st Corinthians 6:12). They understand that “Freedom of Conscience” is an “inalienable right.” Thus, Christianity is by definition infinitely more than “Moral Theology” and “moral agendas.”
3. Paul understood “Spirit and Freedom” theology because of his “Damascus Road” encounter. When an encounter with the “Spirit” is missing, a “moral agenda” seems like a good solution. This is why, before the Damascus Road, Paul was out killing Christians – he believed it to be the correct solution. The sole reason a “moral agenda” has become so popular with the populace of our nation today is because the “gospel” and the “Spirit” are missing
There is power in freedom. A free person is strong enough to recognize the weak and strong enough not to buy into their “systems of secrecy, coercion, and moral agendas.” Mature Christians reject enforced “moral agendas” because, while they deal with the external, they negate internal growth; when choice is eliminated there is little spiritual development! Paul understood this and that the gospel needs no help from the state because it operates by the “Spirit.” “. . .Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
Part # 2. “The Creeping Culture of Secrecy”
(Designed for use during a Sabbath afternoon meeting - following potluck).
When I was just a lad, my father owned numerous apartment houses and building developments. One of the apartment complexes was adjacent to the house where Ellen White had her first vision. It was my task to mow the lawn and keep the grounds clean. I used to stop in the middle of my tasks and look up at the window where she had her first vision in South Portland, Maine. I used to muse about what it was like to be visionary.
Later, in my college and seminary career, I was deeply immersed in history. I spent a considerable amount of time attempting to detail with historical accuracy the beasts and time lines of Daniel and Revelation. I discovered that no matter how studious I was it was difficult to make the dates, events and beasts all tally, especially in Revelation. I simply never could seem to get the future all worked out. Then I read a statement from Scripture that set me on a new path. "When the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth... and he will declare to you the things that are to come." (John 16:13). Crunching historical data may point one in the right direction, but the “Spirit” is the true director. It was about this time that I ran across the statement that suggested a new avenue of discovery.
"Our country shall repudiate every principle of its constitution as a Protestant and Republican government..." 2
The question now became how could this be possible and what arcane methods could possibly be utilized to accomplish such a feat?
Gradually it became obvious that the visionary gift given to the church was as much about discerning the methodology by which the forces of evil work -- as discovering timelines. The pattern of history from creation of man plainly states that ancient sinister forces of the universe operate by the power of “Secrecy and Coercion.” In the Genesis story, the usurper to the throne of God was veiled as a "serpent" – “secrecy.” He had an “intellectually coercive agenda.” "Do you want to be like God?" Paul ran into the "Secret brethren” from the headquarters at Jerusalem - you want salvation, they queried, then join our club, be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses – this was “physically and intellectually coercive.” The crowd not led by the "Spirit” especially falls prey because Lucifer has been honing his “secret agenda” from eternity and his knowledge of how human nature functions has grown by quantum leaps. His first agenda was to deceive the angels. Next came Eve and his final agenda is to deceive the whole world. The “Spirit,” therefore, drives us to consider the "scene behind the scene." So if you get your information from the nightly news on radio or TV - that's the scene - not this scene behind the scene.
Now during this afternoon hour, we do not have time to examine the doctrine of “Executive Secrecy.” The Constitution grants the power of secrecy only to congress. It is obvious, however, that the Executive branch is also entitled to a degree of secrecy. For a thorough discussion of Presidential secrecy, I recommend a book entitled – Presidential Secrecy and the Law by Robert Pallitto and William Weaver.
What we can say is that the founders of our nation were aware of the power-crazy nature of humans. In order to keep humans, society and government in check, they created three branches of the federal government. Each branch was to exercise checks and balances on the other branch so that a balance of power could be maintained.
But Something Happened Recently
"9/11 catalyzed powers into a set of interlocking mechanisms that have transformed the executive branch inconsistent with the Constitution and the functioning of a democracy. The Presidential Powers of Secrecy are a powerful means of circumventing both Politics and the Constitution.”3
Dwight Nelson, in his 6th sermon in a series on the Sabbath entitled “A Test Very Simple and Visible,” quotes from the book Disasters and the Millennium concerning the three likely outcomes of a severe crisis like 9/11.
1. “Disaster creates conditions peculiarly fitted to the rapid alteration of belief systems” (Including the Constitution of the United States).
2. ”Disaster produces the questioning, the anxiety and the suggestibility that are required for change. Only in its wake are people moved to abandon old values of the past.”
3. “Belief systems which under non-disaster conditions might be dismissed - in a disaster we see sympathetic consideration.”
Following the 9/11 event, “57% of Americans said they would give up civil liberties for the sake of security.”4
Because of 9/11 we have been immersed in a climate and culture of change. Change, of course, can be for the better or the worse. Well, you say, I don't mind giving up my "Rights" for security. Have you considered what rights you might be surrendering? The rights Americans have been surrendering are the “body” of our freedom called "Habeas Corpus" - the 4th, 5th, 6th and 14th amendments. This includes the right to be “secure in your home, the right against unreasonable searches, that no warrants may be issued without “probable cause” against you, the right to a speedy and public trial by your peers, and the right not to be deprived of life, liberty, or property without “due process.” Have you considered the consequences the results if these “rights” are forfeited for a security which the government of a free society can never guarantee? There are modern sinister and secret forces at work. Well, perhaps we need to listen to the list presented in the book "Presidential Secrecy" of the "Rights" which have already been challenged. Here is a list of potential “Abuses of Power”
1. “Secret" military tribunals have been created.
2. "Secret" court proceedings closed to the public have been ordered.
3. “A massive detention of aliens has been directed.”
4. “Detainees have been denied access to counsel and courts”
"Secrecy" has been exercised for an astounding array of material and operations.
5. “ Adequate response to congressional inquiries has been refused.”
6. “ Intrusive investigations and surveillance of citizens - known as "wireless wire tapping has been ordered" - in contradiction to FISA declarations.
“These have created a fundamental constitutional shift in favor of “Presidental power.”5
U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled that (warrantless wiretapping) “undisputedly violates the Fourth Amendment. . .violates the First Amendment, and violates the separation of powers. . .the Constitution itself has been violated”6
Now citizens expect the Executive branch to maintain security, which often can only be accomplished through "secrecy." Citizens also expect, however, that all branches of the Government will be held accountable for direct violations of the Constitution known as “abuses of power.”
“The current administration has made unprecedented claims of executive powers of "secrecy" Powers to withhold information from Congress, the courts, and the public.”7
There has been a secret revision of the “Posse Comitatus Act.” (Prohibits the use of military force to enforce civilian law.) The New York Times reports: ”Beyond cases of actual insurrection, the president may now use military troops as a domestic police force in response to a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, terrorist attack, or to any ‘other condition.’ These new Presidential powers were slipped into the law without hearings or public debate.”8
There is a lot of justifiable anger in the nation because of this. "Angered by the administration's unwillingness to share information and to divulge the activities it takes in the name of national security, members of both sides of the aisle object to what they regard as a ‘policy of secrecy.’"9
"This is not simply an academic discussion, the constitutionally unacceptable prospect of civilians being detained and tried by military authorities is an all too real nightmare that many have had to endure over the past seven years." 10
Think of it this way a trial by "peers” is a trial by citizens like you, who, by the way, give this nation the right to exist – this represents the noblest tradition of a government by "We the People.” A trial by military tribunal is a trial by military judges who are under the direct authority of the president of the United States. This nation has never permitted civilians to be tried by military courts - unless civilian courts were not available.
Al Marri, a civilian, was arrested at his home in Peoria, Illinois in December, 2001. He was whisked away from civilian authorities in 2003 when the government presented the federal court with an order signed by the president designating Al Marri as an “enemy combatant.” He was transferred to military custody where he has been detained for nearly 5 years awaiting trial by a military tribunal. A 4th circuit panel has ruled, however (by a majority of 2-1) that the military has no jurisdiction. Their opinion was that "The Constitution does not provide the president the power to exercise military authority over civilians within the United States.” This represents an "Abuse of Power.” “If this ruling is reversed on hearing, the Supreme Court will be called to stand up to the executive branch and re-assert the historical role of the courts in protecting civilians from military rule."11
The 4th circuit panel court said: “A fundamental principle is at stake. Military detention of someone who has lawfully entered the US... presidential authority to order the military to seize and indefinitely detain a (Civilian) citizen even if the president called them enemy combatants would have disastrous consequences for the Constitution -- and country." 12
This is the “scene behind the scene” the “secrecy seen.” A most disturbing thought to consider is what would be the result if the Supreme Court overturns the ruling of the fourth circuit panel court? John Whitehead of the Rutherford institute believes the following: “The ruling will likely be overturned by the full 4th circuit court and the Supreme Court will probably uphold the reversal”13
The “Military Commission Act of 2006” passed by the Congress and signed by the president can take away the “right file” claims of Habeas Corpus which means (detainees) can be held indefinitely. “A number of legal scholars and congressional members - including Senate Judiciary Ranking Member Arlen Specter (RPA) have said that the habeas provision of the act violates a clause of the Constitution that says the right to challenge detention “shall not be suspended” except in cases of “rebellion or invasion.”14
It is interesting to note that while Senator Specter questioned the legality of the act, he voted for it anyway. This shouts concerning the problems that political polarization present to our nation and the effacing of the constitution. This Act ignores numerous rights extended to detainees in the Geneva Convention. Perhaps we might conclude that the “lamb” has begun to roar and that Babylon has begun to bubble.
The result of "Secrecy and Coercion" is that “The groundwork (is being laid) for a new kind of Government where it will no longer matter if you’re innocent or guilty, whether you’re a threat to the nation or even if you’re a citizen. What will matter is what . . .whoever happens to be occupying the oval office . . .thinks”15
There are large constitutional issues left to be considered. May the President proceed alone in secrecy to protect civilian interests during wartime? Does the need for presidential secrecy preclude congressional or judicial oversight and render public debate unnecessary? The above issues have once again produced a climate for “change.” We hear words on the campaign trail like “yes we can”- can what? - “hope”- “hope for what?” - “for change”. – What kind of change? “Change we can believe in”!
Most who have been through the crisis’s of 9/11, 7 years of continuous war, the polarization of America, staggering national debt, sub prime home losses, devaluation of the dollar, gasoline gouging, and food inflation will do anything to accomplish “change.” It almost never occurs to a nation in emotional crisis that change can occur both for the better and the worse! The previous words quoted by Dwight Nelson are quite prophetic. “Disaster creates conditions particularly fitted to the rapid alteration of belief systems.”16 Perhaps this is why we are led to give renewed credence to the thought that “the final events will be rapid ones.”
The stakes are gigantic. For those who believe that the surrender of freedom is the best way to obtain safety at home, here is what Ben Franklin advised: "Those who give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”17 The “First Amendment” was instituted to protect “Freedom of Conscience” and speech. The 4th, 5th, 6th, and 14th Amendments better known as “Habeas Corpus” were created to protect our “physical safety.” They were designed to guarantee that our inalienable rights will not be removed without “due process.”
Christians who are led by the “spirit” must continue the struggle to maintain “freedom of conscience” and freedom from coercion, bondage, and final despotism against all the odds. It is true that we are contending against “flesh and blood” in the form of “secrecy, coercion and moral agendas” which lead to “bondage.” Often we can identify those who espouse such ideas. Let us remember that their power comes from the “world rulers of this present darkness”- legions who are the authors of “secrecy, coercion, and bondage.” Let us also recall that our power comes from the resurrected Christ who gives the “Spirit” to those who ask. The power of the Christian is the “Spirit of Freedom” from which we may not retreat.
Part # 3 “The Immorality of Forced Morality”
(Designed for use on a prayer meeting night)
The original settlers in Jamestown and in the Massachusetts Bay Colony were not Religious Pluralists nor were they Americans – they were British and under British law. By 1776 the decision had been made to establish a nation free from English political dominance and the Declaration of Independence was signed. The tide from Uniformitarianism (unity of church and state or of Magistrate and Prelate) had been shifting and by 1787 the Constitution was ratified followed by the Bill of Rights in 1791. By the establishment of the First Amendment our founding Fathers decreed that freedom should ring from every mountainside. Thus religious pluralism was established in America - this did not just happen by accident. Our founders were well educated and intimately familiar with the religious history of Europe and the atrocities which accompanied it. They knew the horror stories of the Inquisition which included water boarding, the rack, and the stake. Jefferson had a particular prejudice toward Catholicism but because of the religious pluralistic doctrine established in the First Amendment he contained his hostility. Our Founders were familiar with the Religious history of Jamestown and they were knowledgeable that in 1610 a Sunday law was passed in Virginia, which provided for punishment (including death) for failure to attend church each and every week."18
They were well versed on the history of the Calvinists in Geneva and the Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay colony. They were products of “the age of reason.” Many were Deists, Theists or Unitarians, only one Catholic and one Jew were signatories to the “Declaration.” As a result, the Founders understood the negative results of the witch trials, the stocks and the union of magistrates and prelates in the Bay colony. They knew about the debates between John Cotton and Roger Williams and they understood that Rhode Island was established over the issue of "Freedom of Conscience." As a result, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and other framers of the Constitution determined to resolve the issue of religion by establishing Religious pluralism.
They were keenly aware of the introduction of Patrick Henry's bill, "A Provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion,” in Virginia. In this bill, Henry wanted the law of the state to establish "Christianity as the law of the Commonwealth.” He further wanted the State to collect and distribute taxes for the support of “religious teachers."
Many of our founders took exception to this law, but especially Madison and Jefferson, along with the Presbyterians, the Evangelicals, the Baptists, and the Episcopalians and Methodists. In his retort to this bill, Madison states the same Biblical principle Paul did to the Corinthians -freedom of conscience. He says: "religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right...”19
"The framers of our Constitution recognize the eternal principle that man's relation with his God is above human legislation and his rights of conscience inalienable. Reasoning was not necessary to establish this truth; we are conscious of it in our own bosoms. It is this consciousness which, in defiance of human laws, has sustained so many martyrs in tortures and flames. They felt that their duty to God was superior to human enactments, and that man could exercise no authority over their consciences. It is an inborn principle which nothing can eradicate”20 – Congressional documents (USA). Serial No. 200. document No. 271
Madison constructed the First Amendment so there would be no "Establishment of Religion” or prohibition against "free exercise." This being the case, in order to maintain “Freedom of Conscience,” America must always remain a pluralistic nation.
Now, once again, as we look at the scene behind the scene, we find some visionary advice:
"Let the principal once be established in the United States that the Church may employee or control the power of the State; that religious observance may be enforced by secular law, in short, that the authority of the Church and State is still to dominate conscience and the triumph of Rome in this country is assured" – and I would add made possible by many Evangelical Protestants!”21
For 30 years there has been the attempt to tune a broad based smorgasbord of unifying moral and political principles. All parties connected with the moral majority have agreed on one common denominator. “To do God's work here on earth is to oppose evil at all times... Christians have been given dominion (rule) over the earth by God... It is wrong and worthy of opposition when secular persons inappropriately take that dominion."22
Well, if the evangelical agenda is to keep all secular candidates out of office by what methodology can this be established? We get a glimpse into the inner workings by giving consideration to the Texas Republican platform - it is a reflection of the marriage which has taken place between religion and politics.
"Our founders expected that Christianity... and no other religion... would receive support from the government... the wall of separation between church and state would need to come down to establish biblical law... all our party (Republican) pledges to exert its influence to... dispel the "myth" of the separation of church and state... faith-based opportunities should be increased... until the time the Church bears the responsibility for welfare and education. These programs would be funded through tithing, through community and business contributions... the Republican Party of Texas affirms that the United States of America is a Christian nation."23
In case you missed it, here is the moral/political agenda:
1. Christianity, and no other religion, is to receive help from the federal government.
2. Separation of church and state is a "myth" which must be dispensed with.
3. The Creation of "faith-based initiatives" to replace welfare and education funding.
4. The establishment of America as a "Christian Nation."
What this clearly does is "establish” one religion above all others, Christianity, and thus destroys the intent of the 1st Amendment. If, you have watched the primaries, you are familiar with "Religious Litmus Tests” (moral agendas) which candidates seeking high offices are questioned about. They are individually asked Where they stand on such issues as "Faith-Based initiatives, stem cell research, abortion, school prayer, and euthanasia."
Time magazine listed six abuses of power on September 10 2007. Among them was "Politicizing Justice." This represents the scene behind the scene.
An anonymous group of Justice Department employees wrote a letter to the House and Senate Judiciary committee and accused staff members under Attorney Alberto Gonzales of implementing a "political litmus test in determining which of the nation's top law school graduates would be hired as government attorneys. An excerpt from a letter written to the committee on the Judiciary reads as follows:
"While it might be said that whoever wins the election can do the hiring, this new hiring procedure is contrary to the department of justice tradition. The department represents the entire country and has always had attorneys from a variety of schools and political leanings -- there should be no litmus test for a student to get an interview."24
It was not discovered until Monica Goodling's appearance before the Judiciary committee that the Bush administration had a cadre of "150 graduates from Regency University" (Pat Robertson's) serving in the Bush administration."25
Regency University has, over the years, taught Dominionism – Dominionism wishes to re-establish the capital punishments practiced in the Jewish Theocracy. Modern secularists and many Christians cannot accept this reasoning - it means they do not pass the "Litmus test" - neither do they hold to the “moral agenda” of the “right.” Most Dominionists believe that “dominion” was granted to Adam and Eve thus secularists have no right to public office. This both denies and destroys pluralism and thus the Constitution. It should be noted that when John Ashcroft resigned as Attorney General he was hired as the dean of Regency University.
The scene behind the scene is that there has been in place a methodology to install in the Judiciary, the federal courts, the state courts, and the Supreme Court, Christian judges who pass the litmus test - this is the politicizing of justice and an "abuse of power" and it was all accomplished as part of a "secret agenda."
This is why Governor Huckabee recently stated in a most unprecedented and deadly serious manner: "I believe it's a lot easier to change the constitution that it would be to change the word of the living God - and that's what we need to do -- to amend the Constitution.”26 Now that we understand what is going on in "Secret" and being sold as “morality” how does this destroy the Constitution? Article 6 states: "No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." – Article 6, Constitution of the U. S.
Now let's take pause to note that there is a fine line between a "religious test" and a "moral test." Governor Romney was possibly eliminated from the Republican primary by one simple question, "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers"? This is perhaps a not so sly way of implying that Mormons are not Christians! The question is does this constitute a “religious test” or is it a “moral test?” The Constitution forbids “religious tests” this then is an unchartered way to wave a big red flag in front of a large voting block of Evangelical Christians. To his discredit, the Governor did not make an Article VI reply as John Kennedy did in 1960 but went out of his way to try to pacify “Religious Right” voters. He accomplished this “By tying together a ‘person of faith’ and America’s heritage of Christian symbolism (which) sent (the message) that only Christians will uphold Christian values in the public square and thus the only ones qualified for public office.” The question you might ask yourself is – does this look more like a “religious test” or “moral test?” “Secret” code words might begin to look a little less secret.”27 **
But the driving force which has kept religion/politics wedded is the Roe v Wade decision - and the question always asked politicians is, “what do you believe about abortion?” This question, while not asking about "religion" immediately informs the moral majority, whether one is a conservative or liberal and in the eyes of many a Christian or a secularist.
The following observations are not an attempt to “politicize” moral issues. Rather, an attempt to consider the methods which have been and are constantly being unleashed on the American public to drive a specific “moral agenda” to achieve a specific moral goal.
Here are some statistics compiled from a poll taken nationwide with regard to the Roe v Wade court decision. “63% of men and 73% of women believe that abortion is a decision which should be made by a woman and her doctor. 65% disagree that it should ever be an amendment to the Constitution even though everyone agrees it is a ‘moral issue.’ 46% believe it should be illegal except for rape, incest, and to save the mother’s life.”28
In America, therefore, abortion is clearly not a black and white issue, rather one that generates the emotional energy responsible for the political union of Catholicism and Evangelical Protestantism. The whole question of morality is not a 20th century phenomena. The scripture records that: “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.” Genesis 6:5, 6. The raw facts are that in all the millenniums of earth’s history the problem of morality on earth has not been solved. It is a monstrous delusion to believe that man’s secret attempts to politicize justice, stack the courts, and legislate a moral agenda, will heal the ills of society. We must especially take seriously the biblical doctrine of “freedom of conscience.” Peoples' consciences differ and we are must understand that some issues have as much grey as black and white.
To my knowledge, no candidate currently possesses the courage to stand before the "moral majority" and clearly state as John Kennedy did in 1960:
"I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic Prelate would tell the president. . .how to act and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote - where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference. I believe in an America that is neither Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish. Where no public official either requests or accepts instruction on public policy from the Pope, The National Council of Churches, or any other Eccleastical source. Where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of it’s officials and where religious liberty is indivisible . . .”29
The "moral majority" has two categories - conservative or liberal. Liberal is the word equated with "anathema." It is anyone who will not affirm all points of their moral agenda - it is black and white - "I don't know or I’m not sure" can't exist. There is no place for faith and doubt or personal conscience. No room for "Lord, I believe help my unbelief". Instead It’s "this is how it is" – this is "ink and stone theology" it is “moral theology” borrowed from Rome and draped in the coercive garments of 17th Century New England Calvinism. That is the "Secret Agenda" turned “coercive” - the scene behind the scene.
So the real scene in America is the hidden agenda of an “enforced morality.” This constitutes the immorality of morality and is accomplished by the “politicizing of justice.” (The stacking of courts Federal, State and Local.) Whenever we admit that our families, and our churches have failed to instill "moral values" and we beckon the government to assist in the job through legislation we have simply moved the clock back to the failed systems of the middle ages, Geneva, and Puritan America. While "ink and stone theology" may impose morality, all "coerced morality" is "bondage" and "freedom of conscience" which Scripture establishes and the constitution, which our founders adopted, languishes. What has made America the greatest nation on the face of the earth is the doctrine of "Freedom of Conscience" and our steadfast adherence to the laws of “Habeas Corpus.” These laws are the underpinning of freedom, both intellectual and physical. To permit the removal of these “natural laws” means that we deserve “neither liberty nor safety.”
In the end it is all about the God we serve. The God I serve “never forces the will or conscience; but Satan’s constant resort is to gain control of those whom he cannot otherwise seduce – this is both compulsion and cruelty. Through fear or force he endeavors to rule the conscience, and to secure homage to himself. To accomplish this he works through both religious and secular authorities. . .”30 The work of the Christian is to believe the Gospel of grace, and pray for the “Spirit” to convict and soften hearts so that the “hardening” which afflicted “Israel” may not afflict the Christian world.