Ligon Duncan on the Non-Negotiables of the Gospel

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  • Friday, July 13, 2007

    Government Prayer

    Do lawmakers realize what they have done in opening the door (not only allowing but by their action endorsing) a Hindu prayer on the floor of the Senate?

    WHO's NEXT??? ... a Muslim cleric (who's participation would only encourage and advance Islam/"radicalism" in the U.S.), or a new ager, a Satan worshipper, an atheist, etc.? And just who is it, and upon what principles is the decision going to be made?

    I see several problems with what's taken place, and though it appears senators thus far are supporting the problem (even if by not addressing the issues), this is a change in which Christians need to not only demand an accounting from our leaders, but be intimately involved in the development and outcome of all that progresses related to this matter.

    Here are the problems:

    1. The Purpose of Prayer

    By endorsing a pattern that implies that it doesn’t matter “WHO one prays to” or “ON WHAT BASIS one’s prayers are acceptable” or even “WHAT one prays for” is ultimately to proclaim that either prayer does not matter or that it doesn’t matter how one prays.

    To proclaim that prayer does not matter would be contradictory to the very practice being espoused.

    To proclaim that it doesn’t matter how one prays (i.e., in Jesus’ name or not, by faith or not, to Jehovah or any, etc.) is to either suggest that all prayers are equally acceptable, effective and advantageous, or again that prayer does not matter. To suggest that all prayers are equally acceptable, effective and advantageous is to espouse some form of religion (plurality) which is denied by all participants to this point, and to deny the very distinctives set forth by each of the participants themselves.

    Either God exists and is one who will not share his glory with another, or either God(s) exists and it does not matter or God(s) do not exist and it does not matter, but logical consistency proves it cannot be both ways!

    The truth is that God himself has revealed that mediation is necessary for the prayers of men to be acceptable, effective and advantageous. The only mediation that God approves comes only through Jesus Christ, who came and shed his blood that men might be reconciled and blessed by God. To suggest that God can be approached on any other basis (which adds to or takes from the basis of Christ alone) is not only to reject God’s purpose in his Son, but to render men’s prayers not only unacceptable but an affront to God himself, something which contradicts men’s prayers being effective and advantageous.

    2. The Precedent for Prayer

    Note that even given the current battle over our nation’s history and historical documents as to whether they are Christian or secular, it must be noted that neither promote the pattern that is now being espoused.

    What’s true both in our historical documents as well as our nation’s history (even in the precedent of prayer until this week) is that the formation and practice of our nation has been based on recognition of and dependence upon the creator. While debate may exist over the identity (or purpose to whatever degree to remain ambiguous about the identity) of the creator in the historical documents, there is no debate when it comes to the historical practice of prayer leading up to this week’s shift. Prayers have been offered to God (assumed to be the Christian God).

    While it’s true that the U.S. provides for the “freedom of religion”, that is different from suggesting therefore that the U.S. must approve and endorse all religions, a dangerous practice that is being advanced, advocated and witnessed more and more. (i.e. “Islam is a religion of peace”, Hindu prayer, etc.)

    While secularists might suggest the solution is to just do away with all prayers, the answer is not that simple. For among the principles and proponents of secularism, differences are found as well. Is it just that “certain institutions and practices should exist separately from religion or religious belief” as defined by Wikipedia, or that “religious influence is to have no place in government”… such that religion is officially (or though not officially but de facto) denied and atheism becomes way of the day.

    Is it possible for governments to be neutral, or does the nature and exclusivity of the kingdom and gospel deny the possibility of that? What’s true is that the kingdom of God is both separate from but interrelated to the kingdoms of this world.

    3. The Pursuit of Prayer

    While it's clear that at least nationally most Christians would want to see prayer continue but only in the name of Jesus, the fact that this has now "become an issue", even the pursuit of prayer in the name of Jesus could lead toward changes which either promote pluralism or that result in changes that not only side with secularism, but advance the secularist and atheistic agendas in our nation. What's for sure, is that this is a matter that Christians need not only pay great attention to but be intimately involved in the process.

    Conclusion: While I’ve not specifically addressed the issue of whether a prayer should be offered or not, leaving the former precedent and establishing the new one has not and is not in the best interest of our nation.

    1 comment:

    August said...

    In a debate I had elsewhere on this topic, the opponents kept pointing out that the constitution said that the government may not favor on religion over another, or it could violate the establishment clause. Of course, the opening invocation of the session of Congress can only be seen as establishing a state religion in the most narrow of minds.

    For these people, the constitution takes precedence over God. They bow down to the man made law first. They worship the secular, and offer at the altar of the constitutional republic.

    I'm afraid that political correctness trumps Godly obedience for these people.

    You made some good points, and provide yet another perspective.