Wednesday, July 03, 2013

God Needs Not the Help of a Material Sword of Steel to Assist the Sword of the Spirit in Affairs of the Conscience

Independence Day in the United States is a time for national celebration and reflection. This year evangelical Christians in America may be feeling somewhat subdued because it seems that our civil government is abandoning some of the fundamental principles upon which our country was founded. I'm not so sure but that our focus is wrong. It is vigorously argued by some that America was not founded as a Christian nation. I tend to agree.  America was founded on the principles of liberty and freedom--freedom of conscience; freedom of religion; freedom of speech; freedom of the press; freedom of commerce, etc...

Evangelicals maybe should be more concerned that Americans never lose their individual freedoms. I  don't think we ought to be as dismayed that our civil government loses an alleged allegiance to Christian principles. For example, when our civil government recognizes the equality of gay marriages, or takes "In God We Trust" off of our coinage, or removes the Ten Commandments from public display in government buildings, or is led by a President or others who might be atheists, Buddhists, Muslim or followers of any other religion but Christianity, I think we Christians should not be nonplussed. Our civil government was founded on the principle that the power of government resides in the people, and truth be known, we now have people in America who want gay marriage recognized; people who are not Christians, and people who say they are tired of being treated like second-class Americans because they are not Christians. We now have leaders in America who reflect the religious pluralism and societal paganism of the majority of Americans who put them in office.

Again, we evangelical Christians in America should be unfazed by these changes.

God needs not the help of a material sword to assist the sword of the Spirit in affairs of the conscience. That sentence (and this post's title) comes from a line in Roger Williams' 1644 treatise The Bloudy Tenant of Persecution. Roger Williams (1603-1683), founder of Providence, Rhode Island and the first Baptist congregation in America, wrote his treatise after being evicted from the Massachusetts Bay Colony because he disagreed with the merging of the church and the civil government in that colony.

Roger Williams did not get along with John Cotton, the preeminent Anglican minister in Massachusetts who believed in the merging of the church and the government.  Cotton believed that all Americans should Christians, and the government should use capital punishment for those who denied the fundamental Christian teachings of the church. Roger Williams left Massachusetts and wrote The Bloudy Tenant as a refutation of Cotton's Presbyterian and Anglican church polity that advocates the merging of church and civil government.

During this 4th of July week, as we evangelicals think about America and the freedoms we enjoy, I would encourage us to reflect on the biblical arguments of Roger Williams as to why the people of God should never be too concerned about living in a country where the civil government or civil leaders do not recognize the Judeo-Christian God of the Old or New Testaments or any of the teachings found in the Scriptures. I have updated Roger Williams archaic English, but you can read the original text of The Bloudy Tenant of Persecution here.
"Abraham lived among the Canaanites a long time, yet he believed contrary to the Canaanites regarding Religion (see Genesis 13:7. and16:13). Again, Abraham also lived in Gerar, and the pagan King Abimelech gave him freedom to abide in his land (see Genesis 20, 21. 23,  24).  
Isaac also dwelt in Gerar, yet he believed contrary to King Abimelech regarding Religion (see Genesis 26).
Jacob lived 20 years in the same house with his Uncle Laban, yet he believed differently than his uncle when it came to Religion (see Genesis 31).
The people of Israel dwelt for 430 years in the infamous land of Egypt, and afterwards 70 years in Babylon, during which time they differed in Religion from the heads and leaders of both States (see Exodus 1, 2 and 2 Chronicles 36).
Coming to the time of Christ,  the people of Israel lived under the Romans, where there were different sects of Religion, like the Herodians, the Scribes and that of the Pharisees, as well as the Libertines, the Thudaans and the Samaritans, besides the  common Religion of the Jews, and that of Christ and his Apostles--all of which differed from the common Religion of the State of Rome which was the worship of Diana, which almost the whole pagan world then worshipped.
All these lived under the Government of Caesar, and their religion was not hurtful to the commonwealth of Rome, for they rendered to Caesar that which was his (taxes), and as to their Religion and consciences towards God, Caesar left them to themselves,  having no dominion over their souls and consciences."

If someone objects to Williams' observations of Rome by saying it was the Roman civil government who put Christians to death after the resurrection of Christ, it must be remembered that the orthodox Hebrew Jews were the first to persecute the followers of Jesus (one religion persecuting another), and only when the Jews revolted against the civil government of Rome by force did the Romans come to put down the Jewish revolt (70 A.D.). Later, when Roman emperors left the principles of individual freedoms upon which the Roman empire had been built, Christians began to be persecuted.

It is the loss of individual freedoms that will eventually cause any country to collapse upon itself.

So, as we celebrate July the 4th and Independence Day in America this year, let us evangelicals not make the mistake of moaning the loss of Christian America. Any god that requires the sword of government to demand allegiance from a country's subjects is not the one true God of Scripture. Roger Williams understood this, and so should we.

That which we must guard against in this country is the loss of ndividual freedoms as well as increasing government intrusion into--and coercion of--the individual, regardless of a citizen's religion or lack thereof.


Beverly Shelite said...

I agree.

Anonymous said...

Great point, Wade!

The US government is only reflective of the people who elected it. If the government seems to be in contradiction to Christian principles then it’s no doubt reflecting that the population has changed as you correctly point out. To me this is likely an indication that the church has become lazy or off track in its work and the salt has lost its savor.

I currently live in a country that is 99% non-Christian yet has religious freedom. The church in this country has begun to flourish and is free to do the work that God has called it to do. It is unhindered by the government but has no special privileges. As you say, the biggest danger comes when individual freedoms are denied by a government and that’s what we need to protect.

Really good 4th of July post.

Tom Kelley said...

So true.

It is the loss of individual freedoms that will eventually cause any country to collapse upon itself. That bears repeating.

One question -- didn't you mean to say that a Christian should not be nonplussed (bewildered, confused, perplexed) by the movement of our government away from Christian principles?

Christiane said...

it is true that 'laws' cannot change hearts . . .

for example, take Roe v. Wade away, and since the demand for abortions remains static, the action goes then to the back alley butchers which always operated outside of the law

I suppose some feel that by making a law, everything can be brought 'under control',
but it won't happen like that.
Particularly when along with anti-abortion measures being taken in the states, at the same time birth-control is being limited and some want to outlaw it, or at least completely defund it,
and proper sex education in high schools also under attack . . .

this is counter-productive, and since the public knows it is, the conservative right wing is viewed as off their trolleys for not being realistic about cutting down rationally on the demands for abortion through contraception and education.

So each attempt at formulating laws that reinforce conservative values really doesn't help change hearts . . . that is a work of a different realm, not the civil realm

Robert Hutchinson said...

"Our civil government was founded on the principle that the power of government resides in the people..."

Unless you live in California.

Rex Ray said...


Which is more destructive, the lost of individual freedom or moral decay?

Rome, Japan, Germany, Sodom & Gomorrah would indicate moral decay.

I agree with Tom Kelley we Christians should not be nonplussed since we have the Word of God for enlightenment.

Anonymous said...

As I read history, it appears to me some of the greatest God given evangelistic revivals happened during times of moral decay.

We may have been fighting the right battles with the wrong bullets. Changed hearts are what we need.

No matter what the law of the land says I am allowed to do, Christ constrains me in a way no law could.


Wade Burleson said...

Well of course, Tom. Huge typo. Thx

Wade Burleson said...


Excellent point.


I stll believe in terms of civil government loss of individual liberty is more dangerous. For the individual, loss of morality is the greater danger. Government cannot control morality.

Rex Ray said...

It is more dangerous for the individual when government becomes immoral.

An example is Eli letting his sons remain wicked.

Are we saying the same thing?

Anonymous said...

Wade is correct in his use of the word 'nonplussed' which means 'unperturbed or unfazed', and not 'confused'.

This is a very timely article to remind Christians throughout the world that their essential identity is to be found in them being citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. This Kingdom will never pass away, unlike those of this world which rise and fall to the march of time.


Christiane said...

Christians should never be impressed with the wickedness in the world so much as impelled to respond to the sufferings of others.

'impassive' in the face of seeming victory of evil? Only if the Church truly believes that ultimately evil and death are already defeated

it's the plight of those who suffer that should impel Christians to action ... to respond to the cries of those who are troubled . . . to 'come beside' those who need Christ in the midst of their suffering . . . to bring consolation to the lonely, and to visit the outcasts, to nourish and protect those who are unable to care for themselves

these are the calling of Our Lord to us 'I was hungry' 'I was thirsty' 'I was in prison' . . .

the response of a Christian to the pain of this world MUST be one of love, not self-righteous contempt

Kristen said...

The correct definition of "nonplussed" is here.

I agree with Christianne also. I wrote a little blog piece on this issue a while ago that may be of interest even if we are not in complete agreement:

"In God We Trust," Prayer in Schools & Manger Scenes: Why We Shouldn't Fight for Them

Anonymous said...

My head still spins as I remember, as a good Southern Baptist, being taught we should fight prayer in school lest we be setting up kids to be forced to pray to Allah or Buddha, etc.

Now unless we get to rule we are persecuted?


Christiane said...

best keep school children OUT OF the culture wars . . . children should never be put in the middle of this kind of thing

I can understand adults having strong views and expressing them publicly and voting for changes,
but I can never understand or condone ANY adult or group that makes children pawns . . . they are not geared for it, and they need to be protected from that kind of harassment and manipulation.

Christiane said...

A gift for DEBBIE KAUFMAN, who is so valiantly under attack on 'another' blog, by some people who 'don't yet understand':

God bless you, Debbie!
(I'm putting this here, because almost everything I put on David's blog gets 'lost in the machine') :)

Christiane said...

and DEBBIE, I did try to defend you when David said you were wrong, but I have a feeling he will not permit my comment to appear . . .

so I brought my comment here, so that you know you had support, even if no one permitted you to have it:


Christ is not ‘one more person in the Bible’ . . .

He has given a more intensive revelation and understanding to us than was given in the OT . . . ‘upgrades’, if you will

‘inerrancy’ doesn’t mean each sentence in the Bible has the same authority . . . it means that throughout the history of God’s revelation to mankind, God has gradually revealed more of His Plan to them . . . small steps, if you will

but the Coming of Christ takes what was revealed before and DOES change it by revealing much more than what was known before . . .

The OT is REVEALED in the New . . . not erased, but made fully clear as Christ opens up further revelation from God . . .

a parent must now discipline with ‘the fruit’ of the Holy Spirit,
not with a paddle . . . I believe that is what DEBBIE means by her comment, and if it is her meaning, she is absolutely right, and if you consider this, I think may agree

Christ changed everything . . . He put light on what had come before and brought with Him into this world a new grace, and offers His followers a way to live guided and powered by the ‘fruit’ of the Holy Spirit. Debbie is right."
- See more at:

I did try, DEBBIE.
I tried to help. :)

I am sure proud of you, even if you and I see some things differently.

Anonymous said...

"Cotton believed that all Americans should Christians." The bee buzzed away somehow. :)

Good thoughts. Thanks! ken

Joe Blackmon said...

L's gran,

Oops, I mean Christiane. I forgot, you don't need to trot out your dead grandmother to try to fake a sincere interest in SBC affiars so you stopped using her a few years ago. Sorry about that, dear one. (snicker)

Anyway, I'll bet that the reason your drivel doesn't show up on SBC voices often is because, well, it's quite obvious to everyone except Don Quixote here and The Debbie that you are not a Christian. You see, to be a Christian, you'd have to believe the biblical gospel. You know, the one you mock. The on that Jesus, Paul, CB, Vol, and Dave preach? Yeah, that one.

So, since I can't post something like this over at voices since I'd be rightly banned and tell you again how much I loathe and detest you and wish harm on you, I'll post it here. Be peaceful, dear one. (snicker)

Oh, by the way, I've talked to a friend of mine who has access to your email address, a friend of mine who has helped me in the past and they are considering giving that email address to me your inbox. :-)

Ramesh said...

I can clearly see I am not the only one to have lost all my marbles. Oy vey!

Christiane said...


sometimes 'oy vey!' is the ONLY thing to say, LOL

but actually, someone being this troubled is a great reason for prayer, and for the Christian hope which is 'anchored somewhere beyond' our very troubled world.

It seems the right thing to do. :)

God bless you, and thank you for all of your goodness to people, and for past help, which I still remember as very kind.