Sunday, March 14, 2010

Romans 13 And Civil Religion

I'll return to the main points of my Romans 13 series soon which I hope to cap off with Romans 13 In Baptist Thought: A Call for Separation of Church and State which is what all these posts lead up to. The past 2 posts on Thomas Jefferson that I posted are related to issues with Romans 13 in some sense. I have a few other short posts dealing with issues with Romans 13 and other things before returning to my Post Series Proper. Thanks to a tip from Dr. McGrath, I'll post next in my Post Series Proper on Romans 13 and The Communists in Romania before posting on Romans 13 and the Religious Right and Left and then finally ending the series off with Romans 13 In Baptist Thought: A Call for Separation of Church and State.

Anyways here's a quote from Bruce Prescott's latest post on Civil Religion---Mainstream Baptist: Make Up Your Mind Al Mohler (revised):
Al Mohler has posted a blog praising the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for affirming the constitutionality of using the phrase "under God" in the pledge of allegiance and "In God We Trust" on our coinage. He writes,
This decision is good news, and comes as something of a relief -- especially considering the fact that the Ninth Circuit is involved. There is no substance to the claim that these two phrases violate the Constitution. Furthermore, they represent only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to such questions. This kind of language pervades official discourse - extending even to the phrase "the year of our Lord" in the dating of many government documents.

Mohler then notes that the court determined that the phrases have "no theological significance:"
The court has ruled, in effect, that the language of these contested phrases represents what is rightly called "civil religion." In essence, civil religion is the mass religion that serves the purposes of the state and the culture as a unifying force -- a rather bland and diffused religiosity -- an innocuous theology with little specificity.

Christians must never confuse civil religion with the real thing. When our fellow citizens recite the pledge, it is not to be taken as a statement of personal faith in God. In that sense, Christians are rightly concerned that we make clear what authentic faith in God requires and means. Confusing civil religion with Christianity is deadly dangerous.

On the other hand, Christians are well aware of the constant danger of idolatry, and no entity rivals a powerful government in terms of the idolatrous temptation. In that sense, it is healthy and good that we employ language that relativizes the power and authority of the state. It is both important and healthy that our motto places trust in God, and not in the state. And the knowledge that the nation exists "under God" is no small matter.
Mohler is obviously obfuscating here. Civil religion is deadly and dangerous. Civil religion fashions a god that is subservient to the State and uses religion to bolster an idolatrous form of nationalism. Mohler clearly perceives that this is what the Supreme Court has done in this ruling, yet he praises it as "good news."

This decision is not good news, it is bad news for people of genuine faith and conviction. It makes Christians not only complicit but active promoters of a sin for which God warns he will not hold us guiltless.

Only a false prophet eager to accomodate the itching ears of an idolatrous people could find anthing commendable in news that one of the highest courts in the land has officially declared that the name of God has no theological meaning.

The 9th Circuit, following the U.S. Supreme Court, has legalized what the third command of the Ten Commandments expressly prohibits: "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain."

This relates to Romans 13 as Romans 13 is often used to support Civil Religion.

1 comment:

Karl said...

Ulrich Wilckens has a great overview of the history of interpretation of Romans 13.1-7 in his commentary on Romans 12-16 (EKK series VI/3). Worth a read.