From HOW eNews Issue 7, Volume 2|
America's War of Worldviews
By Stephen McDowel
With the rise of attacks against the Ten Commandments in recent years, you would think they must be one of the newest deadly enemies to the well-being of our nation. The most noted assault was leveled against Judge Roy Moore of Alabama who was removed from the State Supreme Court for his refusal to get rid of a monument containing these eternal principles.
This is by no means the only attack on the commandments. In Charleston, South Carolina, a local judge ruled that the County Council had to remove a replica of the Ten Commandments from a wall outside its chambers. A school in California refused an ad for a billboard for a sports field that had the Ten Commandments listed on it. Texas District Judge John Devine fought to keep the Ten Commandments and other items that represent “the roots and the founding of our country” in his Houston courtroom. An attorney brought suit against him because he claimed that the tenth command “would prejudice a jury against awarding any monetary damages to his clients.”
While the reasoning of that attorney is quite silly, it seems astute compared to this: In 1980 the Supreme Court ruled in Stone v. Graham that the public schools of Kentucky could not display the Ten Commandments on the walls. The Court said: “If the posted copies of the Ten Commandments are to have any effect at all, it will be to induce the schoolchildren to read, meditate upon, perhaps to venerate and obey, the Commandments.”1
This would certainly be a horrible situation! Just image if our children obeyed the Ten Commandments — “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” “Honor your father and your mother.” “You shall not murder.” “You shall not steal.” “You shall not commit adultery.” — to name a few.
You can see how dangerous this is! It just might solve our problems if our citizens obeyed these precepts.
Over 1.7 million Americans are behind bars today — 1 in every 155. To learn to not steal or murder might not be too bad an idea to help deal with this problem. Marriages ending in divorce have increased dramatically in the last three decades — to learn to not commit adultery seems to be a pretty good idea. And we could go on and on how the commandments (and their positive corollaries) are just what our nation needs to solve our national problems.
While some think that the principles of living contained in the Bible as summarized by the Ten Commandments are a threat to the liberties and well-being of America, the exact opposite is true. It has been these moral standards of right and wrong behavior that have formed the foundation of liberty and prosperity in our nation.
Can anyone truly think that it is wrong to not murder or steal or bear false witness? Are there many who think families can be secure if they promote adultery as acceptable behavior. Does anyone want to be part of a family that does not believe in honoring the parents? Is it wrong to encourage the worship of God?
Why then has such an assault developed in recent years against these principles? At the root of the conflict is a war of worldviews, between one that is Christian and one that is humanistic.
Christian vs. Humanistic Worldview
To understand this war we must first understand that every nation is built upon some set of presuppositions, some basic ideas of right and wrong, which is ultimately rooted in the religion of the people. The laws of a society will reflect these foundational principles.
On one side of the war is a humanistic worldview. With this religion (and all worldviews are religious), there are no absolutes. Right and wrong are based upon what a majority says or what a minority in power says, hence, law is evolving. Law is whatever the people or courts or legislators say it is. This view began to be taught in various law schools and colleges around the turn of the 20th century, with the state secondary schools following in succeeding decades. Over time this evolutionary view of law began to impact the courts’ actions. Judges began to see our law as evolving. In the words of Charles Evans Hughes, Supreme Court Chief Justice from 1930 to 1941: “We are under a Constitution, but the Constitution is what the judges say it is.”2
Most people are not aware of how much a humanistic worldview permeates our society. It is predominant in the market place of ideas — in movies, newspapers, television, public schools, civil government, and most books, including dictionaries. As an example let’s compare the definition of immoral from a modern dictionary and from America’s first exhaustive dictionary produced by Noah Webster in the early 19th century and first published in 1828. Webster, as most of our founders, had a Christian worldview which is reflected in his definitions. Under his definition of immoral he writes: “Every action is immoral which contravenes any divine precept.” To him, divine precept is the standard to judge immorality.
The modern Webster’s New World Dictionary defines immoral as “not in conformity with accepted principles of right and wrong behavior.” What is the standard for immoral action here? It is what the consensus of the population thinks. Immorality today is usually presented in this light where man determines right and wrong conduct. He is his own god.
Since man is the source of law in a humanistic society, man is the god of such a society. Historically, when man is his own god, the outcome is not freedom, but tyranny and destruction. Consider the fruit of the French Revolution or the gradual decay and collapse of the Roman Empire after the Caesars began to be viewed as gods.
In great contrast is the Christian worldview, where there are absolutes, right and wrong. Since God is the source of what is right and wrong, He is the source of law. To those with a Christian worldview, God reveals His truth in the Bible. This was the view of law in America for most of our history. William Blackstone, whose Commentaries of the Laws of England (1765) was the primary resource for those studying law in America until the 20th century, said that “no human laws are of any validity, if contrary to [the] law of nature [which is] dictated by God himself . . . [or to] the law of revelation [which is] to be found only in the holy scriptures.”3
A Christian worldview was predominant in America from our founding in the seventeenth century up until the twentieth century. During the twentieth century the Christian worldview has gradually been replaced by a humanistic worldview. As our worldview has changed, our law-system has changed. This changing of law-systems reflects a changing of religions.
Some would ask, “What difference does it make, if we have a Christian or humanistic foundation? Just as long as I have my freedoms.” We must understand that ideas have consequences. The fruit we get is determined by the seeds we plant. The fruit of America has been liberty and prosperity beyond that of any nation in history. It is important that we understand the seed principles America was built upon. If we change seeds, we will get different results. The external state of nations today, as in all of history, has been determined by the foundational principles of the nations. Since these foundational principles are primarily rooted in the religion of the people, we should ask in what religion was America’s foundation rooted?
If you base your answer on what is taught in government schools, you would think we are a product of the secular European Enlightenment. But if you were to examine the laws, the schools, the writings, and the lives of early Americans, you would conclude, as did the United States House of Representatives in 1854 that “the great vital and conservative element in our system is the belief of our people in the pure doctrines and divine truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”4
This same view was summarized by President Andrew Jackson when he said on June 8, 1845, that “the Bible is the rock on which our Republic rests.” Early Americans would almost universally agree that the religious, social, educational, and political life of America was primarily shaped by the Bible.
Our states were colonized by people who desired to freely worship the God of the Bible; our schools were begun so that everyone would be able to read and understand the Bible for themselves; our universities were founded to train ministers who were knowledgeable of the Scriptures; our laws and constitutions were written based on Biblical ideas; and our founding fathers overwhelmingly had a Biblical worldview.5
In early America there were those who attacked Christianity, for the war of worldviews has gone on since the fall of man. But they were few, and even the non-Christians fought against them. Toward the end of his life, Benjamin Franklin (who was not orthodox in his beliefs) wrote a reply to Thomas Paine seeking to dissuade him from publishing a work of an irreligious tendency which spoke against Christian fundamentals. He told Paine that no good would come from his publishing his ideas, writing that “He that spits against the wind, spits in his own face.” Franklin pointed out to Paine that “perhaps you are indebted to . . . your religious education, for the habits of virtue upon which you now justly value yourself. . . . Among us it is not necessary, as among the Hottentots, that a youth, to be raised into the company of men, should prove his manhood by beating his mother.” Only evil would result if Paine’s ideas succeeded, for, as Franklin wrote, “If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be if without it.”6
Many today in America are “beating their mother” when they seek to remove Christianity from our public life. Christianity is what has produced the liberty and prosperity that has allowed people to pursue such unwise action.
The winner of the present battle of worldviews in America will have great impact upon everyone in our nation. If the forces of humanism prevail, the fruit will be more loss of liberty, more Americans behind bars, more broken homes, and less prosperity. This will affect the humanists as much as the Christians (really more, due to God’s providential protection of His people), and in that sense they are “spitting in their own faces.”
Christianity has been the life-blood of America. If the Christian worldview prevails it will once again nourish every aspect of the life of this nation producing freedom, justice, prosperity, and life for all.
1. Stone vs. Graham, 449 U.S. 39 (1980).
2. Charles Evans Hughes, speech at Elmira on May 3, 1907, The Autobiographical Notes of Charles Evans Hughes, David J. Danelski and Joseph S. Tulchin, editors, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1973, p. 144.
3. Sir William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, Philadelphia: Robert Bell, Union Library, 1771, vol. 1, 38-42.
4. B.F. Morris, Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, Philadelphia: George W. Childs, 1864, p. 328.
5. See various books published by the Providence Foundation that document the Christian foundation of America, including America a Christian Nation, Building Godly Nations, and America’s Providential History.
6. The Works of Benjamin Franklin, by Jared Sparks, Boston: Tappan, Whittemore, and Mason, 1840, p. 281-282.