Ligon Duncan on the Non-Negotiables of the Gospel

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  • Thursday, December 10, 2009

    America: an Islamic Nation?

    In President Obama's nobel acceptance speech, he made reference again to Islam as "a GREAT religion" (Caps, my emphasis, though it reflects the tone in which the statement was made).

    While I recognize both the political and practical benefits of using such a term (i.e., seeking to drive a wedge to separate the greater Muslim community from those presently and publicly endorsing jihad.... so as to avoid WWIII), at the same time I wonder if any News organization would consider counting and reporting the number of times the President of the United States has made reference to Islam as a Great Religion and the number of times he has publicly referred to Christianity as a Great Religion? I guarantee the difference would be ASTOUNDING!

    Question: Where's the CONSISTENCY when it comes to what many refer to today as "separation of church and state"? Seems while there may be "separation of Christianity and state", there is no "separation of Islam and state". Where is Barry W. Lynn, the Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, on this? While outcry would be heard if anyone in a rural classroom even mentions anything related to Christianity, the President of the United States can speak and be broadcast to the world stating "Islam is a GREAT Religion", and no one says a word.

    Several Points
    1. While I don't believe our forefathers meant what most people say "separation of church and state" means today, at the same time the inconsistency in applying the principle (as commonly accepted) is gross.
    2. While calling Islam a "great religion" may presently have political and practical implications, the consequences of such a high profile figure repeatedly making such references may have great and devastating consequences in the future.
    3. Distinction between present expouses of jihad and the greater Muslim community can be made without referring to Islam as being "great". (Note: the reference "great" can not only be taken to mean Islam has made contributions to the world but also to mean Islam is worthy as a religion and not only worthy of endorsement (if not acceptance) but is publicly being endorsed with grand appraisal by the high profile person making the statement.)
    4. If we do not need government competing against our business in the marketplace, we certainly don't need government competing against our religion in the world.
    5. I'm grateful that while the President(s) of the U.S. may refer to Islam as a great religion, the greater witness found in Jesus and heaven itself not only has spoken with a powerful Word to the contrary but will also win the battle since the certainty of victory lies not in human persuasion (even those with high profiles) but in the sovereignty, power, and faithfulness of God himself.

    23 comments:

    Skeptimal said...

    Unfortunately, a billion people believe in Islam. Civil libertarians find little to recommend a religion whose adherents riot in the streets protesting Danish cartoon drawings of Islam but say little to protest atrocities like 9/11.

    Barry Lynn and others have not objected when presidents and others have talked about the greatness of Christianity or its importance in their lives, and I think you are wrong that any religion has received more favorable treatment than Christianity.

    That having been said, I can also understand how it might seem otherwise. By virtue of the fact that there are more Christians than any other group in the U.S., there are going to be more Christian attempts to subvert the constitution. Further, Christians hold most of the positions of power, and therefore are numerically more likely to use that power inappropriately than are Muslims or pagans.

    jazzycat said...

    Skeptimal,
    There you go again....
    By virtue of the fact that there are more Christians than any other group in the U.S., there are going to be more Christian attempts to subvert the constitution.

    Have you noticed the radical left and their attempts to subvert the constitution? Christians want our country to abide by our constitution, not subvert it. It is the left that wants to ignore it. What do you think they mean when they describe it as a living and breathing document?

    Skeptimal said...

    Jazzy,

    I didn't deny that there are times when people on the left try to subvert the constitution, although I'm sure we would disagree on what a constitutional threat actually is.

    All I said was that since there are more Christians than anyone else, there will be more Christian attempts to undermine the rights of non-Christians. Further, since I doubt you would notice when a left-wing group got its head snapped back, I understand why you might think it's only Christians who get picked on. That perception, however, is an illusion.

    As I think I've made clear, I have no love for Islam as a philosophy or religion, but it doesn't even pass the straight face test to say that Islam gets preferential treatment over Christianity.

    Skeptimal said...

    Jazzy,

    I didn't deny that there are times when people on the left try to subvert the constitution, although I'm sure we would disagree on what a constitutional threat actually is.

    All I said was that since there are more Christians than anyone else, there will be more Christian attempts to undermine the rights of non-Christians. Further, since I doubt you would notice when a left-wing group got its head snapped back, I understand why you might think it's only Christians who get picked on. That perception, however, is an illusion.

    As I think I've made clear, I have no love for Islam as a philosophy or religion, but it doesn't even pass the straight face test to say that Islam gets preferential treatment over Christianity.

    jazzycat said...

    Skeptimal,
    You said…..
    I didn't deny that there are times when people on the left try to subvert the constitution

    That is good because those times are early and often. It is Christian conservatives who are for strict obedience to the constitution and it is liberals who want to subvert it through judicial fiats, foreign law, giving preferences to groups, etc. I could go on and on. My point is there is no comparison between Christian conservative’s view of the constitution and liberal’s view. You may have some criticisms of Christians you can argue but this is not one of them.

    If I were you I would punt.

    swordbearer said...

    Skeptimal,

    I do not deny there are more Christians, that numerically speaking more likelihood exists for Christians to be called out, or even that Christians have had more preferential treatment in U.S. history (... though I still argue against what most accept today as the meaning of the "separation of church and state" when originally communicated.

    The point of my post deals not so much with whether one is given better treatment than the other, but with the consistency of application, that if you are going to apply it to the one, then not only where is the outcry when the other is communicated so blatantly, as well as the fact that it does not serve us well when Islam is touted as a great religion, thereby encouraging more toward it and perhaps it's reception.

    Therefore, my question to you is: Not whether you have a love or not for Islam as a religion; but whether you are okay with the President of the United States, a country which touts a particular view of separation of church and state, repeated using his pulpit to proclaim that Islam is a great religion?

    Skeptimal said...

    Jazzycat,

    "You may have some criticisms of Christians you can argue but this (strict interpretation of the constitution) is not one of them."

    i'm not following how you got to this particular subject. We were talking about equal application of the constitutional separation of church and state.

    Skeptimal said...

    "are (you) okay with the President of the United States, a country which touts a particular view of separation of church and state, repeated using his pulpit to proclaim that Islam is a great religion?"

    Constitutionally, I don't believe it is against the law for Obama to say what he said. Any more than it was unconstitutional for the lesser Bush to speak in glowing terms about Jesus and Christianity or to say that Islam is a religion of peace.

    There is a difference between speaking well of a religion and using the government to promote those religions. Nor do I think that AU or the ACLU are falling down on the job for not giving him grief. They did not complain in the many instances in which Bush expressed his love for Christianity. I honestly believe that if you set aside your dislike for civil rights groups, you would see that they have not been trying to remove all reference to religion from the public sphere. What they do, however, is challenge it when government resources are used to promote a particular religion or when a church endorses political candidates.

    Philosophically, however, I couldn't disagree with Obama more on this issue, and I don't think it is helpful to pretend that Islam has been hijacked.

    jazzycat said...

    Skeptimal,
    i'm not following how you got to this particular subject.

    I was responding to your charge that Christians attempt to subvert the constitution in the same proportion as other groups. I think I successfully argued that left-wingers are the ones trying to subvert the constitution and not conservative Christians. I was responding to the following sentence in your first comment:

    By virtue of the fact that there are more Christians than any other group in the U.S., there are going to be more Christian attempts to subvert the constitution.

    swordbearer said...

    Skeptimal,

    Christopher Hitchens condemned the use of government "space" and you speak against the use of government "funds", but let me use one of Hitchen's own phrases - "... using government for affirmation of a religion." Now, let me ask you which form of affirmation is greater, using funds, using spaces, or when the President of one's country, the leader of the free world, repeatedly speaking out (and being broadcast around the world) using words that not only recognize a religion, but AFFIRM it using the "GREATest" of adjectives to describe it?

    Besides this, are you saying you had NO problem with President Bush speaking in glowing terms of Jesus and Christianity (especially if or where he did not not of his personal faith, but as a government leader).... or are you just suggesting it's "no more against the law by comparison".

    Which brings me back to the original topic which is not only by comparision when it comes to speeches to the world have significantly more references been made to Islam being a "great religion" than references to Christianity ... when was the last time a reference was made on the world stage of Christianity as a GREAT religion? ... and "repeated" with the frequency the other is???

    Besides, it's not only the comparison, but the legitimacy given the presently accepted (though misinformed) position on the meaning of "separation of church and state".

    In addition, it's not a good thing for our President to do anything to affirm (/and encourage people toward) that which has had such a central and demonstrated role in leading people to carry out the very attacks which have taken so many lives inexcusably. On top of this, it's not the role of president (if you continue with your description of separation of church and state) to serve as prophet and make religious statements whether the jihadists have hijacked Islam or not.

    Call it hypocrisy, inconsistency, or whatever you will, but it ought not be done, especially under the "rules" which are so often held up against Christianity. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

    Skeptimal said...

    Swordbearer,

    The issue of separation of church and state can a complicated one, because we should protect the rights of individuals to practice their religion, but also we should protect their right not to have other religions pushed upon them by government. When a public figure is religious (and all but one or two are), their right to privately practice their religion and speak for themselves has to be protected, but they have no right to use government resources to promote religion.

    In this case, Obama is not a Muslim so his referring to Islam as a "great" religion is akin to his referring to a foreign country as a "great" country. I don't think we would say he was advocating that everyone move there just because he speaks well of it.

    "Besides this, are you saying you had NO problem with President Bush speaking in glowing terms of Jesus and Christianity (especially if or where he did not not of his personal faith, but as a government leader).... "

    I may not have liked what Bush had to say regarding religion, but I do defend his right to say it (speaking for himself). He could even have legally said (as many Christians do) that only Christians are fit to serve as elected representatives. His *saying* that would not have been illegal, but if he tried to encode that into law or regulation, he would be violating the constitution.

    It also would have been an indication that he didn't understand the constitution (which he didn't) and that he shouldn't be trusted in government. But I don't think the statement itself would have been illegal.

    It is not unusual, by the way, for elected officials to make comments like that or to make comments that any religion is better than no religion. I don't think you'll find that any lawsuits or charges have been filed over someone making assinine comments like that.

    I agree that it is a mistake to speak of Islam as a great religion, and I'm not happy that Obama did it, because it speaks of naivete. There are no great religions; only some that have a different ratio of harm to benefit.

    I have to disagree, however, that his saying Islam is a great religion rises to the level of a church and state issue. We're going to disagree on this, but I'm confident that the goose and gander have been roasted in the same sauce.

    jazzycat said...

    Skeptimal,
    How you would define something as being a religion? What thing do they all have in common?

    Puritan Lad said...

    Skeptimal: "... they have no right to use government resources to promote religion."

    Response: Why Not? Can you justify this standard, with or without the Constitution?

    I must add that everyone wants government to promote a religion. The question isn't whether or not the government should promote a religion. That they will is inevitable (I use the word "promote" in the broad sense as you do.) The question is what religion should government promote. Secularists want government to promote the religion of humanism. When Christian's disagree, we have the myth of separation thrown at us. Where is that in the Constitution again?

    Skeptimal said...

    Puritan,

    Are you saying that its impossible to have a religion-neutral government, so we should just adopt Bible-believing Christianity as our state religion? Government doesn't have to promote any religion, even if you accept the logical fallacies necessary to define "secularism" as a religion. Government can and should be silent on the subject.

    The only way that I can see your position making any sense is if you believe that a government that doesn't actively and specifically endorse Christianity is actually embracing another religion by failing to do so. Is that what you believe?

    swordbearer said...

    Skeptimal: In this case, Obama is not a Muslim so his referring to Islam as a "great" religion is akin to his referring to a foreign country as a "great" country. I don't think we would say he was advocating that everyone move there just because he speaks well of it.

    Response: While Las Vegas isn't a country, their recent experience when the President just "suggested" government money should not be used to host parties/conventions there speaks otherwise.

    Besides, there's a difference when it comes to "separation of church and state" when our President affirms a "state" and when he lauds a "religion" as great.

    Skeptimal: "Besides this, are you saying you had NO problem with President Bush speaking in glowing terms of Jesus and Christianity (especially if or where he did not not of his personal faith, but as a government leader).... "

    Response: My post while dealing with "consistency" did not address the practices of the Bush administration.

    Note - I've written concerning my views in regard to the separation of church and state.

    What you have failed to address is not just whether you have no more problem with what Obama has done than with what Bush did, but whether you have a problem with what Obama is doing (or what Bush did) in affirming Islam as a "GREAT" religion. If you have a problem, then you are in agreement with my post. If you do not have a problem with it, then let's not hear objections when Christians in government (or government funded institutions) espouse Christianity.

    It shocks me that you would be so hesitant to agree with this post.

    Skeptimal: "It is not unusual, ..., for elected officials to make comments like that or to make comments that any religion is better than no religion. I don't think you'll find that any lawsuits or charges have been filed over someone making assinine comments like that.

    Response: While the issue you raise is one which has been discussed recently, it still does not compare to our president "affirming" a "specific" religion.

    Skeptimal: I agree that it is a mistake to speak of Islam as a great religion, and I'm not happy that Obama did it, because it speaks of naivete.

    Response: You've agreed with the primary objective of my post, only it's not just naivete, but could lead some astray with potential to result in more of the incidents of terrorism the U.S. seeks to avoid (by encouraging some to the very texts and teachings which previous jihadists acted upon).


    Skeptimal: "There are no great religions; only some that have a different ratio of harm to benefit."

    Response: I disagree. You fail to recognize the value of Christianity which has been entrusted with the very words of God, whose members have been committed the ministry of reconciliation, and who proclaim the good news and message of salvation through Jesus Christ.

    Skeptimal: "I have to disagree, however, that his saying Islam is a great religion rises to the level of a church and state issue."

    Response: I'll remind you of this when you raise issues of Christianity being affirmed (/endorsed).

    Skeptimal: "...but I'm confident that the goose and gander have been roasted in the same sauce"

    Response: It's not a matter of whether they have been roasted in the same sause, but if it's not acceptable for one to be served, then being of the same family it's reasonable to assume it shouldn't be acceptable for the other to be served, especially in the same pot.

    Puritan Lad said...

    Skeptimal: "Are you saying that its impossible to have a religion-neutral government"

    Response: Yes. Nothing is "religion-neutral". (I believe that we have had this discussion many times before.) Ones the government legislates anything, it has taken a religious position.

    Skeptimal: "Government can and should be silent on the subject."

    Response: That is a religious position. It is based on a particular view of God, man, life, law, ethics, etc. For example, on what basis wuld you suggest that the government can or should do anything? Who says? Without being subject to God, government becomes autonomous. It is no coincidence that the more "secular" our government becomes, the more totalitarian it becomes. Who would have ever dreamed that the US Federal government would consider putting it's citizens in jail for refusing to buy health insurance? It may very well become a reality soon.

    Skeptimal: "The only way that I can see your position making any sense is if you believe that a government that doesn't actively and specifically endorse Christianity is actually embracing another religion by failing to do so. Is that what you believe?"

    Response: Exactly. For example, what is the "religion-neutral" postion on abortion? Gay Marriage? When a government legislates, how do we decide if a law is just or not?

    “Without absolutes revealed from without by God Himself, we are left rudderless in a sea of conflicting ideas about manners, justice and right and wrong, issuing from a multitude of self-opinionated thinkers.” - John Owen

    Skeptimal said...

    "What you have failed to address is not just whether you have no more problem with what Obama has done than with what Bush did, but whether you have a problem with what Obama is doing (or what Bush did) in affirming Islam as a "GREAT" religion."

    I can appreciate your confusion, but I've tried to say as clearly as possible that I *do* have a problem with it, but I don't think it's illegal. Your original post complained that the sep of church and state crowd weren't jumping all over Obama, which they would generally only do if there was a legal issue.

    "If you do not have a problem with it, then let's not hear objections when Christians in government (or government funded institutions) espouse Christianity."

    My sample comments from Christian politicians were to make the point that while I might complain about some of the things the lesser Bush and others have done, I don't believe all of them are against the law.

    "It shocks me that you would be so hesitant to agree with this post."

    I have to assume your "shock" is because you think I'm going soft on Obama because I agree with him more often than I did with the lesser Bush. (I refer to him as the lesser Bush becuase I actually voted for and liked Bush's father as president.) If Obama were a Muslim and said that, I would have a much more serious problem with it, but I still don't think it would be illegal.

    If you're shocked that I don't think this is a sep of church and state issue, I think it's because you've misunderstood many of my previous comments. You may be tempted to say "back at you," but it's seemed to me that you've jumped to alot of unwarranted conclusions about me in the past.

    In my previous comment, I gave samples of religious attacks by Christian politicans that I did not like but did not consider illegal.

    Skeptimal said...

    "a government that doesn't actively and specifically endorse Christianity is actually embracing another religion by failing to do so. Is that what you believe?"

    Response: Exactly."

    Well, I guess I always suspected that was the case, but I thought only Muslims or Scientologists would consciously think that way. That explains why you take even my gentler comments as direct frontal attacks on all that you believe is holy.

    It doesn't really leave us much to talk about, though, does it? In your mind, the only reason to talk to me would be to convert me to Christianity, and everything I say that doesn't specifically refer to Jesus as Lord and Savior is going to be taken as a direct attack on your faith. Even when we agreed on an issue, in your mind, I'd be agreeing with you for the wrong reason, which would also be a direct attack on your faith.

    Is that accurate?

    Puritan Lad said...

    Skeptimal,

    I haven't accusd you of "attacking" anything. You are trying to avoid the issue, which is that there is no such thing as a neutral position in any area of life. Like most unbelievers, you are insisting that your worldview is the "neutral" or default position. As a result, you tell us what you think government should or shouldn't do, but you cannot justify why you think so. In telling us this, you prove Owen's point to a tee. You think government should do such and such, and religious folks should not interfere. Why? Because you said so?

    On what basis does government enact legislation? What gives them the right to tell any individual what to do? In discussing this, we will eventually come to a place where we are faced with the issue of ultimate authority. That is a religious issue. It is inescapable. Either government has ultimate authority (Statism), or individuals do (pure democracy). If the former, then you have no right to say that "Government can and should be silent on the subject" of religion (if that were even possible). If the the latter, then you are left with majority rule, and if that majority happens to be religious, then so be it. Once the Supreme Authority of God is removed from the public square, then these are the only two choices left.

    As we clearly have two differing worldviews, it is only natural that anything we say can be construed as an "attack". My religion expresses a clear role and duty for civil governments, and as such, when the governments acts outside of that role (either by abusing it's power or by exercising it unjustly), then it becomes anti-Christian.

    So I need for you to clarify your ultimate authority. You failed to answer these questions, so I'll ask them again, since they clearly express the problem that I have presented to you.

    What is the "religion-neutral" position on abortion?

    What is the "religion-neutral" position on gay marriage?

    The same problems exist in any civil issue, but these two are the most glaringly obvious. The very right for any person to legislate (or not legislate) is itself a religious issue.

    There is no neutral position Skeptimal. Maybe we cannot resolve our issues, but if we are to do so, you'll need to justify your position on government, law, ethics, etc. On what authority will you do so?

    Skeptimal said...

    Puritan,

    I didn't say you'd accused me of attacking; I said that you treat any comment that does not endorse Christianity as an attack on Christianity. You've said there is no neutrality, and any government that doesn't specifically endorse Christianity is anti-Christian. That doesn't appear to leave Christians anything to discuss with non-Christians, in your view, other than that we should all become Christians.

    "Once the Supreme Authority of God is removed from the public square, then these are the only two choices left."

    You keep saying things like this, but it's a false dilemma. In practice, democracy means that we negotiate our laws. We argue those laws based on experience, history, and our hopes for the future.

    You keep implying that unless I have an absolute standard that tells me what to do in every situation, that I have no ground on which to argue. Why? You don't have one either.

    You say you do, but if that were the case, Christians would agree on all issues. How many branches and denominations of Christianity do we have? Further, I'm fairly confident that you would not support slavery, genocide, mass-murder, polygamy, etc., all of which are Biblical.

    So let's quit pretending that you have this absolute standard that you follow. You don't.

    Puritan Lad said...

    Skeptimal, you haven't answered my questions. Let's try this again.

    What is the "religion-neutral" position on abortion?

    What is the "religion-neutral" position on gay marriage?

    The idea that "we negotiate our laws" doesn't answer the question. I addressed that problem previously (see majority rule above). Besides, if we merely negotiate our laws, then I ask again, one what basis will say that "Government can and should be silent on the subject."

    And yes, I do have an absolute standard. You should know that...

    Puritan Lad said...

    "You say you do, but if that were the case, Christians would agree on all issues"

    That i ssimply not true. When it comes to the proper roloes of civil government, all TRUE Christians, properly discipled are pretty much in agreement (Abortion, gay marriage, etc.)

    The word "Christian" has unfortunately become without meaning. We have 2 Billion people that call themselves by that name. How do we know whether they are or not? By the same standard, God's Word.

    Skeptimal said...

    "Skeptimal, you haven't answered my questions."

    It's not like you answer all the comments or questions I put out there. Even so, in this case, okay.

    What is the "religion-neutral" position on abortion?

    The question is not valid. There are pro-lifers and pro-choicers in most religion. If you're asking what is the question between you "real" Christians and everyone else, there isn't one. There isn't a neutral position between Scientologists and everyone else either.

    If you quit issuing orders to the rest of the universe, you might find that there is a political will to limit some abortions.

    What is the "religion-neutral" position on gay marriage?

    Marriage is a legal contract that does not require religion. Most, if not all, of the attempts to legalize gay marriage have included provisions to allow you to express your fear and hatred of gays with impunity. NO gay marriage law has attempted to require churches to perform gay marriages.


    "The idea that "we negotiate our laws" doesn't answer the question."

    Yeah, it pretty much does. Only in the past twenty years has there been this concept that that the majority gets to tell the minority to **** off.


    "And yes, I do have an absolute standard. You should know that..."

    I know otherwise. You wear mixed-fiber clothing, you probably eat shellfish, and you haven't stoned any wayward children recently (unless you're writing from jail). Do you require "your" woman" to stay silent in church? Do you support the right to own slaves? Do you cast out demons? If you answer "no" to any of these, then you have no absolute standard.