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Using God To Our Own Devices

It is becoming rather common to use the name of God in an effort to promote one’s own agenda. The theory goes that if God is backing our particular moral, political, or social program, then we know what direction we ought to go. However, it seems that both sides of any debate make a claim to God being on their side. For example, in an Associated Press article written on November 8, 2004 entitled “Liberals Dismayed By ‘Moral’ Values Claim,” Reverend Robert Edgar, general secretary of the liberal-leaning National Council of Churches had this to say:It is becoming rather common to use the name of God in an effort to promote one’s own agenda. The theory goes that if God is backing our particular moral, political, or social program, then we know what direction we ought to go. However, it seems that both sides of any debate make a claim to God being on their side. For example, in an Associated Press article written on November 8, 2004 entitled “Liberals Dismayed By ‘Moral’ Values Claim,” Reverend Robert Edgar, general secretary of the liberal-leaning National Council of Churches had this to say:

“The religious right has successfully gotten out there shaping personal piety issues – civil unions, abortion – as almost the total content of ‘moral values,'” Edgar said. “And yet you can’t read the Old Testament without knowing God was concerned about the environment, war and peace, poverty. God doesn’t want 45 million Americans without health care.”

Without any citation or scriptural proof, a person claiming religious authority as a reverend and general secretary of the National Council of Churches has just declared that God spoke about the environment, war and peace, poverty, and health care. Allow me to explore the scriptures about each of these “moral” issues to see what God truly says about them.

I do not make any claims to be a walking encyclopedia concerning the scriptures. There are many things I have learned and far more that I will continue to learn from the word of God. But I simply cannot think of one Old Testament passage that refers to man’s need to protect the environment as the basis of morality. However, the scriptures do say, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (Genesis 1:26). Humans have been given charge over the earth to use all that is in the world as they would see fit. As with any gift of God, we are to be good stewards of the blessings of God. But I cannot see how a person can make saving trees, cleaning marinas, and discarding SUVs as “moral” or righteous in the eyes of God. God warned of the wickedness of those who “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator-who is forever praised. Amen” (Romans 1:25). Mr. Edgar’s argument actually goes against the scriptures as mankind has been warned not to promote the created things of this world to the status of god in their lives.

Mr. Edgar also suggests that war and peace are moral issues. But one must wonder exactly what point he is trying to make in his statement. It would seem to me he is suggesting that all wars are immoral and not approved by God. This pacifist notion also goes against the words of the scriptures. Anyone with a minimal knowledge of the Old Testament, to which Mr. Edgar refers to, knows that God used war as a means to judge wicked nations. Even the New Testament gives the governments the power to exercise this right. “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:1-4). One of the God-given purposes of national government is to protect the innocent, bringing evildoers to justice. To claim that a government should not go to war under any circumstance is to forsake the divine authority of God given to governments to protect the innocent and bring justice to the wicked.

Concerning poverty, Mr. Edgar seems to imply that it is immoral and against God’s laws to have people impoverished. However, the Old Testament made no provisions for poor people to receive welfare or benefits from the government. Those who became unable to pay their debts were allowed to sell themselves to those whom they owed the debt and work for them until the debt became paid. The year of jubilee (every 50th year, therefore usually only once in one’s lifetime) was the time when all peoples and properties that were given over because of debts were cleared and forgiven. But God did not set up a government in the Old Testament to support those who willfully put themselves in debt or chose not to work. Even in the days of Jesus, He said, “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me” (Matthew 26:11). Not in one instance do we see Jesus making the poor wealthy. To claim that poverty is immoral ignores the fact that Jesus was without a house of his own and had no earthly riches. Mr. Edgar also ignores the fact that the poorest of our nation are in many ways richer than the poorest people of the first century and of Old Testament days.

Finally, Mr. Edgar clearly states it is immoral for 45 million Americans to be without health care. Where do the scriptures teach it is divine law or a God-given right to have health care? Please produce your Old Testament passage teaching this point, Mr. Edgar! One wonders what health care plan Jesus and His disciples had. Most of the world’s population today and in histories past have not had a health care plan. Where do health care and morality come together in the scriptures? I read of people in the scriptures dying from diseases, health problems, childbearing, and other such health complications that we are not affected by today. Yet we are an immoral people because a fraction of the population of our country does not have health care. While I would love to see health care become reasonably priced so that all citizens of the United States could have access to premium health care, such a notion has nothing to do with God’s standards or God’s laws.

God has defined His definition of morality in the Bible. Paul gives a small sampling of God’s moral issues in Galatians 5:19-21, “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” If we are going to open up a debate on the need to return to moral values in our country, let us begin with these issues in Galatians 5 which God has defined for us to keep, not the political issues of man. Let us return to God’s standard.