Religion, Morality and the Election
Recent articles in the Free Presbyterian Magazine have drawn attention to the Biblical basis and vital importance of the Establishment Principle. As has been shown, this principle asserts the responsibility of the civil authorities to guard both tables of the law, to promote true religion and biblical morality as well as to secure the temporal wellbeing of the nation. While Church and state are carefully to avoid interfering in each other’s province, they are to assist each other in promoting regard for the revealed will of God in the life of the nation. “Kings and all that are in authority” are to secure the conditions in which “we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (1 Tim 2:2).
There is great reason to bemoan the departures from Biblical religion and morality in much legislation in recent years, in the lives of many prominent legislators and in the official countenancing of false religions and “alternative lifestyles”. While the nation, judged by its constitution, is still professedly Christian and Protestant, this position is practically disregarded on every hand and is not reflected in new legislation or by dominant trends in society.
The June 2001 election of MPs in the United Kingdom has again demonstrated the difficulty facing those in our nation who wish to go against the materialistic and secularising tide and support candidates who would advocate Christian values in Parliament. The manifestoes of competing political parties concentrated on promising material wellbeing. Even the arguments for and against European integration, widely acknowledged to be politically and nationally significant, focus on the material implications and certainly not on the implications for the Protestant constitution of the nation or for the ability of the nation to maintain and enforce Biblical morality. Perhaps even those who profess Christian principles vote too often in accordance with their view of which party has most furthered, or will best suit, their own material circumstances.
No doubt, the influence of an individual MP intent on advocating the religion, morality and social standards of the Bible would be largely neutralised. But how few such candidates there are! It is particularly serious that, in avoiding specifically religious and moral issues, candidates and parties are responding to what they consider the most important issues for the majority. The general apathy towards the political process evidenced in the recent election may reflect the lack of confidence which many have in the integrity of politicians and in their power to effect any desired change. But sadly this apathy cannot be accounted for by dissatisfaction with their basically materialistic approach. Callum G Brown of Strathclyde University concludes his recent book, The Death of Christian Britain, with the claim that “the culture of Christianity has gone in the Britain of the New Millennium. Britain is showing the world how religion as we have known it can die.” National religion, as judged by the institutions, laws and customs of the nation, is certainly in a low state.
If the Cause of Christ is not dependent upon the patronage of men, what is the source of the confidence of His people for the future of His work? It is seen in their prayer: “O Lord, revive Thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy” (Hab 3:2). James Begg was a doughty defender, against the Voluntaries, of the national recognition of the true religion in the nineteenth-century Free Church; he did not hesitate to assert that “the state needs the help of religion much more than religion needs the help of the state”. John Calvin in his Institutes (4.20.9) states that “no polity can be successfully established unless piety be its first care, and that those laws are absurd which disregard the rights of God and consult only for men”. Thomas M’Crie warned long ago that, as religion lies at the foundation of civil society, serious consequences must be expected from the removal of religious sanctions: “The swelling torrent of ignorance, irreligion, infidelity, and contempt of divine ordinances, with that profligacy of manners which is their never-failing attendant, will overbear all the barriers of civil restraints . . . render their execution fruitless and at last dangerous and impracticable”.
These things being so, the whole atmosphere of the recent election does not promise well for the future, faced as we are with the materialism and irreligion of the masses, the steadily growing influence of Romanism in national life, the idolising of the concept of a multi-faith society, the subtle but sure enmeshment of our nation in European institutions, the seemingly unshaken confidence in human resources and the widespread indifference to God and His Word. We personally must seek grace to enter into the spirit of Daniel’s truly patriotic prayer: “O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes and to our fathers, because we have sinned against Thee” (Dan 9:8).
The Free Church and the APCs
A proposal came before the General Assemblies of both the Free Church of Scotland and the Associated Presbyterian Churches in May which would bring the Churches closer. They emphasise that they are not considering union, only that ministers and elders of each Church would become automatically eligible to hold office in the other. Meanwhile the matter has been referred to the lower courts of the Churches and is to return to their Assemblies in 2002.
If the two Churches are close enough to make a mutual eligibility arrangement desirable, why is union not also desirable. But if union is not desirable, why is mutual eligibility acceptable? In any case, the present move highlights the emptiness of the APC’s claim to be the true successors of the Free Presbyterian Church. If the APCs now feel so close to the position of the Free Church, especially so soon after the more conservative elements in the latter have departed, it is clearly time for the APCs publicly to drop their claim and to give up their occupation of all Free Presbyterian properties.
Execution of the Oklahoma Bomber
It is unspeakably solemn for the soul to leave the body and pass into eternity – into the presence of God, one’s Creator, Lawgiver and Judge. Such was the dreadful event which took place in mid-June in the execution unit in Terre Haute Penitentiary, Indiana, when Timothy McVeigh was judicially put to death for murdering 168 people in the worst act of terrorism committed in America. Was it right that he should suffer the punishment of death?
His execution has been condemned by politicians, church leaders and pressure groups across the European Union. Some, like Lord Russell-Johnston, the president of the Council of Europe, said that it was wrong; others have described it as barbaric. Amnesty added: “By executing the first federal death-row prisoner in nearly four decades, the US has allowed vengeance to triumph over justice”. But President Bush was right when he said, “The victims of the Oklahoma City bombing have been given not vengeance but justice”. (We presume he used the term vengeance, as did Amnesty, in the sense of revenge.)
Capital punishment for murderer, dreadful as that punishment is, is indeed just and right because it is what God requires rulers to impose. They are to carry it out, not primarily as a deterrent, but in obedience to the divine mandate: “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made He man” (Gen 9:6). Who is man that he should substitute his idea of justice for that required by God, of whom Abraham said, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
Judging by his comments, McVeigh himself had no conception of the dread solemnity of appearing before His Judge, and although he had been spared for six years after committing murder he appeared to be determinedly impenitent to the end. It is true that he, a professed agnostic, did ask, on the day before he died, for Ecclesiastes 8 to be read. However, his final statement was the poem Invictus, which contains the line, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul”. The absurdity of his defiant claim was surely manifested by his just execution.
Copious Funding for Homosexual Activists
The pro-homosexual group, Stonewall Scotland, has been awarded almost £400 000 from the National Lottery. Stonewall is an aggressive lobby group which vigorously campaigned, for example, against Clause 2a (which prohibited the promotion of homosexuality in schools).
The sinful and shameful National Lottery, which is sponsored by the Government, acts as a disguised tax on the public, financing what are designated “good causes”. But the Government can use it to finance morally-undesirable causes without being accused of using income from direct taxation.
In any case, it is a disgrace that any funding should be given to Stonewall – an organisation which, to use the words of the Rev Jim Cowie, Convener of the Church of Scotland’s Board of Social Responsibility, “has been at the forefront of aggressive promotion of the homosexual lifestyle”. Yet Stonewall fallaciously argues that “homosexuality cannot be promoted because it is given in people’s lives”. We believe that homosexuality will be promoted as a result of this enormous new funding, although the group denies this.
No doubt it will be helped in its efforts by sections of the media. When Mr Cowie and a Stonewall spokesperson were interviewed by BBC Scotland, Mr Cowie was not only given less time to speak but was treated with obvious impatience when he spoke about the merits of traditional family life.
The homosexual lobby is also helped by certain churches. A new Church of England catechism states, “Homosexuality may well not be a condition to be regretted but have divinely ordered and positive qualities”. And a recent Channel 4 documentary claimed that there are practising homosexuals in Roman Catholic seminaries, and that the priesthood is becoming a “gay profession”. The Roman Catholic Media Office responded by saying, “It is an issue which seminary rectors are talking about”, thereby tacitly acknowledging that the problem exists.
Meantime, as the resources and influence of the homosexual lobby grow, the number of cases of HIV infection continues to increase. There were 3 425 new cases last year – a 14% rise and the highest yet in Britain. Homosexual activists are becoming increasingly bold; they are like those of whom Isaiah wrote, “They declare their sin as Sodom; they hide it not”. The situation calls for believers to pray earnestly that God would turn back the rising tide of iniquity, and that He would not leave this adulterous generation to be a generation of His wrath. May He bring our nation to repent of promoting this sin by legislation and other means.