Christians, Politics, Voting, Oath of Office and Honesty

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Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
Friends,

For many years now I have been personally convicted that I could never, in good conscience, honestly take an oath of office and swear to uphold the laws of the land and the Constitution as they now stand. I shared this last week with a small group I lead on the gospel of Luke. I was surprised at the instant smirks and even anger I received in response to what I said.

Below is an email I sent the next day to all who attended the group. What do you think about my position?

===========

Greetings,

Some thoughts from last night...

I have voted most of my adult life, but I am often torn. I do not think a decision about voting and holding office is such a no-brainer that we need not even think about it. Aren't Christians, even in their own words, often faced with the lesser-of-two-evils dilemma? Is this action supported in Scripture?

When I mentioned that I do not believe that I could in good conscience hold, at least some, public offices, there was an instant response by seemingly everyone against my statement. [Name] gave the most animated response saying something like this. "So do you think we should just abandon the government and leave it completely in control of the wicked"? Or words to that effect. I considered that as a clear reductio ad absurdum that fails the test when in my opinion the morality of swearing to uphold immoral laws and the (feared) results are not relevant to the question. Where in Scripture are we told that the consequences of an action are determinative of the morality of the action? Aren't we often told just the opposite? (Esther 4:16 & Daniel 3:17-18) Where in Scripture do we ever read that we can "do evil that good may come?" (Romans 3:8)

So for the sake of discussion I have included two links to articles by the old Reformed Presbytery so you can at least become familiar with the other side. Maybe we will talk about this again sometime. Please know that although I speak as I have, I hold no final opinion one way or the other. It's just a perennial question that occupies my mind about every two years. I usually choose to vote.

Here are the links:
http://www.covenanter.org/reformed/2016/11/4/why-reformed-presbyterians-cannot-vote
http://www.covenanter.org/reformed/2016/11/4/why-covenanters-do-not-vote
 
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Gforce9

Puritan Board Junior
I would say that you were direct in the letter. It may be good to explain your position more fully when you have the opportunity. I can tell you that my thinking has changed much since leaving pop-evangelicalism (the moderately patriotic kind). I am still "patriotic" and have love for this great country; my dad and grandfather served in WWII, my brother in Desert Storm and I oft get angry when I see all of their hard and freedom securing work go right out the window with lazy, Socialist leaning folk from my own and following generations. Like you, however, I know that this kingdom is not "God's kingdom" nor the final rest for His people. I understand how folks can conflate the two. Helping folks to understand these points is key.
Explain more of why you couldn't do x or y and, while some may continue to disagree, dont let it be because of clarity.......
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
I support the Constitution as a procedural document with secular wisdom. I'm undecided on whether I could swear an oath of office per it. I might. My problem with the Constitution is that the convention that ratified it was a secret meeting of Freemasons who hated the Articles of Confederation, which by law could only be amended by state congresses, not Freemasonic meetings.
 

JimmyH

Puritan Board Senior
I am with you Ed. I could not in good conscience swear to uphold some of those laws that are immoral, anti Biblical, and perverse. This does not mean that I am suggesting anarchy. I voted for our President and would hope to do so again in the next presidential election.
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
It may be good to explain your position more fully when you have the opportunity.

My position is tentative as I hope to be taught on this forum.

In answer to your request, I have included a lot of information below. Too much, I am sure, for the average viewer. Here are some info and thoughts on the information below:
1. A lawful oath is a part of our religious worship and must be in the name of God.
2. ALL reference to God is missing from our Constitution and its amendments. We are by law a secular government.
3. The oath of office requires us to do two mutually exclusive things:
a. You must be honest when you swear.
b. You must swear to uphold the Constitution and ALL the laws of the United States. I.e., Abortion, homosexual marriage, and the like.
4. Robert Shaw’s Exposition of the Confession of Faith on Lawful Oaths and Vows.
5. Some links to State (and colony) constitutions in colonial and modern times.

Please see my original post for my concerns and doubts over this information. I am looking for some help.

==========

From the Westminister Confession of Faith
CHAPTER XXII. Of lawful Oaths and Vows

A LAWFUL oath is a part of religious worship,a wherein, upon just occasion, the person swearing solemnly calleth God to witness what he asserteth or promiseth; and to judge him according to the truth or falsehood of what he sweareth.b

II. The name of God only is that by which men ought to swear, and therein it is to be used with all holy fear and reverence:c therefore to swear vainly or rashly by that glorious and dreadful name, or to swear at all by any other thing, is sinful, and to be abhorred.d Yet as, in matters of weight and moment, an oath is warranted by the word of God under the New Testament, as well as under the Old;e so a lawful oath being imposed by lawful authority, in such matters ought to be taken.f

III. Whosoever taketh an oath, ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and therein to avouch nothing but what he is fully persuaded is the truth.g Neither may any man bind himself by oath to any thing but what is good and just, and what he believeth so to be, and what he is able and resolved to perform.h Yet it is a sin to refuse an oath touching any thing that is good and just, being imposed by lawful authority.i

IV. An oath is to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words, without equivocation or mental reservation.k It cannot oblige to sin; but in any thing not sinful, being taken, it binds to performance, although to a man’s own hurt;l nor is it to be violated, although made to heretics or infidels.m

a Deut. 10:20
b Exod. 20:7; Lev. 19:12; 2 Cor. 1:23; 2 Chron. 6:22, 23
c Deut. 6:13
d Exod. 20:7; [See letter b.] Jer. 5:7; Mat. 5:34,37; James 5:12
e Heb. 6:16; 2 Cor. 1:23; [See letter b.] Isa. 65:16
f 1 Kings 8:31; Neh. 13:25; Ezra 10:5
g Exod. 20:7. [See letter b.] Jer. 4:2
h Gen. 24:2-9
i Numb. 5:19, 21; Neh. 5:12; Exod. 22:7-11
k Jer. 4:2; [See letter g.] Psal. 24:4
l 1 Sam. 25:22, 32-34; Psal. 15:4
m Ezek. 17:16-19; Josh. 9:18,19; With 2 Sam. 21:1

See Robert Shaw’s Exposition of the Confession of Faith following Article VI of the Constitution

=================

Article 6, Section 3 of the Constitution contains a declaration of disallowance which forbids religious tests for those holding office:
"... no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

Article VI of the Constitution

All debts contracted and engagements entered into, before the adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.

This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

=================

From Robert Shaw’s Exposition of the Confession of Faith​

Summary

These sections embrace the following points: first, The nature of a lawful oath; secondly, By whose name men ought to swear; thirdly, The warrantableness of taking an oath; fourthly, The manner in which an oath ought to be taken; and, fifthly, The binding obligation of an oath.

1. An oath is a solemn act of religious worship, in which the person swearing calls God to witness his sincerity in what he asserts or promises, and to judge him according to the truth or falsehood of what he swears. When a person swears to facts past or present, this is called an assertory oath; when one swears that he will perform a certain deed or deeds in time to come, this is called a promissory oath. An oath may relate to matters civil or ecclesiastical, and, according to its matter, may be denominated a civil or ecclesiastical oath; but to whatsoever matter it may be applied, the oath itself retains its high place among the solemnities of religion.

2. An oath is only to be taken in the name of God. We are expressly commanded to "swear by his name" (Deut. 6:13); and to "swear by them that are no gods" is represented as highly criminal.–Jer. 5:7. Swearing by the name of God implies a belief and acknowledgement of his omniscience, omnipotence, and justice; it follows, therefore, that to swear by any other besides him, must be utterly unlawful, and no less than idolatry.

3. An oath may be warrantably taken on weighty occasions, when imposed by lawful authority. The Quakers, and some others, deny the lawfulness of swearing an oath in any case, under the New Testament. But their opinion is refuted by a variety of arguments. An oath for confirmation is warranted by the third precept of the moral law; for while that precept prohibits the taking of God's name in vain, it sanctions swearing by the name of God on lawful occasions. The practice is confirmed by numerous approved examples under the Old Testament. Abraham swore to Abimelech that he would not deal falsely with him. Gen. 21:23, 24. A king of the same name desired that an oath might be between Isaac and him; and they swore one to another. Gen. 26:31. In like manner Jacob swore to Laban (Gen. 31:53); and Joseph swore to his father. Gen. 47:31. All these examples occurred before the Mosaic law was given to the Jews, and therefore an oath can be no peculiarity of the Mosaic dispensation. But that law expressly recognised the warrantableness of taking an oath (Lev. 5:11), and under that dispensation we have various examples of holy men swearing by the name of God. Thus Jonathan required David to swear unto him (1 Sam. 20:17); and David also swore unto Saul. 1 Sam. 24:21,22. The taking of an oath being no part of the judicial, or of the ceremonial law, it must be equally warrantable under the present dispensation, unless expressly prohibited in the New Testament. But there is much in the New Testament to confirm the practice. The Apostle Paul frequently appeals to God in these and similar expressions: "God is my witness:"–"I say the truth in Christ, I lie not", (Rom. 1:9, 9:1): "I call God for a record upon my soul." 2 Cor. 1:23. Christ himself answered the question of the high priest, when he adjured him by the living God; which was the common form of administering an oath among the Jews. The writer to the Hebrews speaks of the oath which God swore to Abraham, "who, because he could swear by no greater, aware by himself;" and he adds, "An oath for confirmation is an end of all strife" (Heb. 6:13,16); plainly showing that he sanctioned the practice. It must be evident, therefore, that our Saviour's words (Matt. 5:34), "Swear not at all," and the similar words of the Apostle James 5:12, do not absolutely prohibit all swearing on necessary end solemn occasions; but only forbid the practice of swearing in common conversation, and particularly of swearing by creatures. It must be remarked, however, that an appeal to God in trivial matters, and the frequent and unnecessary repetition of the same oath, is a taking the name of God in vain. And it may also be observed, that as the lifting up of the hand is the usual mode of swearing mentioned in Scripture (Gen. 14:22; Rev. 10:5, 6), so it ought to be preferred; and all superstitious forms ought to be rejected.

4. An oath ought to be taken "in truth, in righteousness, and in judgment." Jer. 4:2. In truth; that is, with an entire correspondence between the sentiments of the mind and the words of the oath, in their common obvious meaning, and as understood by those who administer it; without any equivocation and mental reservation. To allow of mental reservation in swearing, as the Church of Rome in certain cases does, is to defeat the very end of an oath, to destroy all confidence among men, and to involve the swearer in the heinous sin of perjury. In righteousness; that is, in things lawful and possible for us at the time of swearing, and with a fixed intention to perform what we pledge ourselves to do. In judgment; that is, deliberately and reverently, well considering whether the matter of the oath be good and just, and whether the ends proposed be sufficient to justify us in interposing the glorious and dreadful name of God for a pledge of the truth of our declarations.

B. A lawful oath binds to performance. Oaths engaging persons to what is sinful are in themselves null and void; and they who have rashly taken such oaths ought to repent of and renounce them, instead of adding the sin of keeping to the sin of making them, as Herod most wickedly did in beheading John the Baptist for the sake of his oath. Mark 6:23, 26. But a lawful oath is binding, though the performance may be prejudicial to a man's temporal interest; and it is the character of a good man, that though "he swears to his own hurt, he changes not." Psalm 15:4. It is a detestable principle of the Romish Church, that "faith is not to be kept with heretics"

=================

Some information of State constitutions both colonial and modern:

Religion in the Original 13 Colonies
https://is.gd/PGybtJ

God in Modern State Constitutions
https://is.gd/XbRAuq
https://is.gd/1S2Hs0
 

Gforce9

Puritan Board Junior
My position is tentative as I hope to be taught on this forum.

In answer to your request, I have included a lot of information below. Too much, I am sure, for the average viewer. Here are some info and thoughts on the information below:
1. A lawful oath is a part of our religious worship and must be in the name of God.
2. ALL reference to God is missing from our Constitution and its amendments. We are by law a secular government.
3. The oath of office requires us to do two mutually exclusive things:
a. You must be honest when you swear.
b. You must swear to uphold the Constitution and ALL the laws of the United States. I.e., Abortion, homosexual marriage, and the like.
4. Robert Shaw’s Exposition of the Confession of Faith on Lawful Oaths and Vows.
5. Some links to State (and colony) constitutions in colonial and modern times.

Please see my original post for my concerns and doubts over this information. I am looking for some help.

==========

From the Westminister Confession of Faith
CHAPTER XXII. Of lawful Oaths and Vows

A LAWFUL oath is a part of religious worship,a wherein, upon just occasion, the person swearing solemnly calleth God to witness what he asserteth or promiseth; and to judge him according to the truth or falsehood of what he sweareth.b

II. The name of God only is that by which men ought to swear, and therein it is to be used with all holy fear and reverence:c therefore to swear vainly or rashly by that glorious and dreadful name, or to swear at all by any other thing, is sinful, and to be abhorred.d Yet as, in matters of weight and moment, an oath is warranted by the word of God under the New Testament, as well as under the Old;e so a lawful oath being imposed by lawful authority, in such matters ought to be taken.f

III. Whosoever taketh an oath, ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and therein to avouch nothing but what he is fully persuaded is the truth.g Neither may any man bind himself by oath to any thing but what is good and just, and what he believeth so to be, and what he is able and resolved to perform.h Yet it is a sin to refuse an oath touching any thing that is good and just, being imposed by lawful authority.i

IV. An oath is to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words, without equivocation or mental reservation.k It cannot oblige to sin; but in any thing not sinful, being taken, it binds to performance, although to a man’s own hurt;l nor is it to be violated, although made to heretics or infidels.m

a Deut. 10:20
b Exod. 20:7; Lev. 19:12; 2 Cor. 1:23; 2 Chron. 6:22, 23
c Deut. 6:13
d Exod. 20:7; [See letter b.] Jer. 5:7; Mat. 5:34,37; James 5:12
e Heb. 6:16; 2 Cor. 1:23; [See letter b.] Isa. 65:16
f 1 Kings 8:31; Neh. 13:25; Ezra 10:5
g Exod. 20:7. [See letter b.] Jer. 4:2
h Gen. 24:2-9
i Numb. 5:19, 21; Neh. 5:12; Exod. 22:7-11
k Jer. 4:2; [See letter g.] Psal. 24:4
l 1 Sam. 25:22, 32-34; Psal. 15:4
m Ezek. 17:16-19; Josh. 9:18,19; With 2 Sam. 21:1

See Robert Shaw’s Exposition of the Confession of Faith following Article VI of the Constitution

=================

Article 6, Section 3 of the Constitution contains a declaration of disallowance which forbids religious tests for those holding office:
"... no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

Article VI of the Constitution

All debts contracted and engagements entered into, before the adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.

This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

=================

From Robert Shaw’s Exposition of the Confession of Faith​

Summary

These sections embrace the following points: first, The nature of a lawful oath; secondly, By whose name men ought to swear; thirdly, The warrantableness of taking an oath; fourthly, The manner in which an oath ought to be taken; and, fifthly, The binding obligation of an oath.

1. An oath is a solemn act of religious worship, in which the person swearing calls God to witness his sincerity in what he asserts or promises, and to judge him according to the truth or falsehood of what he swears. When a person swears to facts past or present, this is called an assertory oath; when one swears that he will perform a certain deed or deeds in time to come, this is called a promissory oath. An oath may relate to matters civil or ecclesiastical, and, according to its matter, may be denominated a civil or ecclesiastical oath; but to whatsoever matter it may be applied, the oath itself retains its high place among the solemnities of religion.

2. An oath is only to be taken in the name of God. We are expressly commanded to "swear by his name" (Deut. 6:13); and to "swear by them that are no gods" is represented as highly criminal.–Jer. 5:7. Swearing by the name of God implies a belief and acknowledgement of his omniscience, omnipotence, and justice; it follows, therefore, that to swear by any other besides him, must be utterly unlawful, and no less than idolatry.

3. An oath may be warrantably taken on weighty occasions, when imposed by lawful authority. The Quakers, and some others, deny the lawfulness of swearing an oath in any case, under the New Testament. But their opinion is refuted by a variety of arguments. An oath for confirmation is warranted by the third precept of the moral law; for while that precept prohibits the taking of God's name in vain, it sanctions swearing by the name of God on lawful occasions. The practice is confirmed by numerous approved examples under the Old Testament. Abraham swore to Abimelech that he would not deal falsely with him. Gen. 21:23, 24. A king of the same name desired that an oath might be between Isaac and him; and they swore one to another. Gen. 26:31. In like manner Jacob swore to Laban (Gen. 31:53); and Joseph swore to his father. Gen. 47:31. All these examples occurred before the Mosaic law was given to the Jews, and therefore an oath can be no peculiarity of the Mosaic dispensation. But that law expressly recognised the warrantableness of taking an oath (Lev. 5:11), and under that dispensation we have various examples of holy men swearing by the name of God. Thus Jonathan required David to swear unto him (1 Sam. 20:17); and David also swore unto Saul. 1 Sam. 24:21,22. The taking of an oath being no part of the judicial, or of the ceremonial law, it must be equally warrantable under the present dispensation, unless expressly prohibited in the New Testament. But there is much in the New Testament to confirm the practice. The Apostle Paul frequently appeals to God in these and similar expressions: "God is my witness:"–"I say the truth in Christ, I lie not", (Rom. 1:9, 9:1): "I call God for a record upon my soul." 2 Cor. 1:23. Christ himself answered the question of the high priest, when he adjured him by the living God; which was the common form of administering an oath among the Jews. The writer to the Hebrews speaks of the oath which God swore to Abraham, "who, because he could swear by no greater, aware by himself;" and he adds, "An oath for confirmation is an end of all strife" (Heb. 6:13,16); plainly showing that he sanctioned the practice. It must be evident, therefore, that our Saviour's words (Matt. 5:34), "Swear not at all," and the similar words of the Apostle James 5:12, do not absolutely prohibit all swearing on necessary end solemn occasions; but only forbid the practice of swearing in common conversation, and particularly of swearing by creatures. It must be remarked, however, that an appeal to God in trivial matters, and the frequent and unnecessary repetition of the same oath, is a taking the name of God in vain. And it may also be observed, that as the lifting up of the hand is the usual mode of swearing mentioned in Scripture (Gen. 14:22; Rev. 10:5, 6), so it ought to be preferred; and all superstitious forms ought to be rejected.

4. An oath ought to be taken "in truth, in righteousness, and in judgment." Jer. 4:2. In truth; that is, with an entire correspondence between the sentiments of the mind and the words of the oath, in their common obvious meaning, and as understood by those who administer it; without any equivocation and mental reservation. To allow of mental reservation in swearing, as the Church of Rome in certain cases does, is to defeat the very end of an oath, to destroy all confidence among men, and to involve the swearer in the heinous sin of perjury. In righteousness; that is, in things lawful and possible for us at the time of swearing, and with a fixed intention to perform what we pledge ourselves to do. In judgment; that is, deliberately and reverently, well considering whether the matter of the oath be good and just, and whether the ends proposed be sufficient to justify us in interposing the glorious and dreadful name of God for a pledge of the truth of our declarations.

B. A lawful oath binds to performance. Oaths engaging persons to what is sinful are in themselves null and void; and they who have rashly taken such oaths ought to repent of and renounce them, instead of adding the sin of keeping to the sin of making them, as Herod most wickedly did in beheading John the Baptist for the sake of his oath. Mark 6:23, 26. But a lawful oath is binding, though the performance may be prejudicial to a man's temporal interest; and it is the character of a good man, that though "he swears to his own hurt, he changes not." Psalm 15:4. It is a detestable principle of the Romish Church, that "faith is not to be kept with heretics"

=================

Some information of State constitutions both colonial and modern:

Religion in the Original 13 Colonies
https://is.gd/PGybtJ

God in Modern State Constitutions
https://is.gd/XbRAuq
https://is.gd/1S2Hs0


Ed,
I didn't have clarity for myself in mind, rather the folks in your group. It is always good to see our forebearers, Confession and Scripture cited! :knox::henry::murray::luther:Your a good man, Charlie Brown......
 

TheOldCourse

Puritan Board Sophomore
It should be considered, however, that the Constitution also provides means for lawfully changing its own text (the amendment process). That being the case, I do not believe it's dissembling to take an oath to uphold the Constitution while having the intent to endeavor to change some aspect of the law of the land as long as the intention is to accomplish it by lawful means. For instance, the Constitution was very nearly amended in the 19th and early 20th centuries to explicitly recognize Christ as King over the nations and the US as a Christian nation, effectively repealing the secularism inherent in the document. The Constitution certainly allows for such a process. The 18th amendment was repealed and there's no reason (other than the spiritually impoverished state of our populace) that the religious test could not be lawfully repealed as well.
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
It should be considered, however, that the Constitution also provides means for lawfully changing its own text (the amendment process). That being the case, I do not believe it's dissembling to take an oath to uphold the Constitution while having the intent to endeavor to change some aspect of the law of the land as long as the intention is to accomplish it by lawful means. For instance, the Constitution was very nearly amended in the 19th and early 20th centuries to explicitly recognize Christ as King over the nations and the US as a Christian nation, effectively repealing the secularism inherent in the document. The Constitution certainly allows for such a process. The 18th amendment was repealed and there's no reason (other than the spiritually impoverished state of our populace) that the religious test could not be lawfully repealed as well.

I quoted your whole post because I found it helpful. Here's my question. Is potential good a lawmaker might hope to accomplish in the future a valid reason to, in the meantime, be in a position where he is forced to do evil? Consider a judge for example. He may vote against abortion, but he would be forced to rule in favor of abortion until the law changed.

Here's what he swore to uphold: From article 6 - "This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby" He swears that the laws of the US are the supreme laws of the land. I'm sure you can see where I am going.

Here's where I would compromise. I am in a PCA now, and was an elder in the OPC and am familiar with the exceptions that some ministers take to the Confession before ordination. I am troubled with the exceptions but that's another discussion. If a congressman or judge could make some exceptions that would not compromise his Christian faith and still be allowed the office, that would be OK with that. But the way out country and laws are now I doubt anyone could get elected under those terms.

Thanks again for your thoughtful input.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
b. You must swear to uphold the Constitution and ALL the laws of the United States.

Why would you think that?

Federal oath for civil office:

"I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God." 5 USC Sec. 3331.

Oath for military officers:
"I, _____, having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God."

Let's not waste our efforts on straw men.
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
Why would you think that?
Federal oath for civil office:

I am familiar with the oaths but thanks for reminding us. It's the following statement in the Consitution that got my attention:

From Articl3e 6
This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby,

Then there's the first oath you quoted that states that you have no other agenda
than the Constitution:

"without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion."

I would have so many reservations that I could not take the oath.

But thanks for your input.
 

TheOldCourse

Puritan Board Sophomore
I quoted your whole post because I found it helpful. Here's my question. Is potential good a lawmaker might hope to accomplish in the future a valid reason to, in the meantime, be in a position where he is forced to do evil? Consider a judge for example. He may vote against abortion, but he would be forced to rule in favor of abortion until the law changed.

Here's what he swore to uphold: From article 6 - "This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby" He swears that the laws of the US are the supreme laws of the land. I'm sure you can see where I am going.

Here's where I would compromise. I am in a PCA now, and was an elder in the OPC and am familiar with the exceptions that some ministers take to the Confession before ordination. I am troubled with the exceptions but that's another discussion. If a congressman or judge could make some exceptions that would not compromise his Christian faith and still be allowed the office, that would be OK with that. But the way out country and laws are now I doubt anyone could get elected under those terms.

Thanks again for your thoughtful input.

Let me preface this with the fact that I certainly wouldn't ever want to encourage you to act against your conscience by voting unless you were fully convinced of its permissibility. The RPCNA, of course, historically opposed all political engagement for many of the reasons that you hold and I respect that position tremendously. They dropped their denominational opposition to voting/office holding decades ago but they still recognize the validity of scruples in this area and encourage each to act according to his conscience. While I don't find a comprehensive argument against political engagement convincing personally, these are weighty matters and it is encouraging to me that you take it seriously.

All that said, I think you're reading into the Constitution more than need be. When it refers to itself as the supreme law of the land it means administratively. Thus the court system which tests other civil laws against the Constitution. I don't believe it is consciously setting itself as supreme over more fundamental laws (divine and/or natural) or else it would contradict the Declaration's appeal to inalienable rights and would have been unacceptable to most of the framers and ratifiers--even the deists. Many of the framers were not orthodox Christians, but even the secularists of the time generally recognized a natural law which superceded political law. Hence the Revolutionary War.

That being the case, the Constitution that is sworn to uphold is chiefly administrative and procedural. It constitutes the Union on the idea that the government should rule by the consent of the people and should be safeguarded against tyranny. The specific legislation that is enacted under that framework is regarded as malleable and subject to revision. To require an oath that commits one to the whole body of civil law would be, itself, tyrannous. It should also be noted that even in the text that you cite, it is the judges, rather than the legislature that is bound by it. Judges have no power to create or change law, but must act according to the law as written and when civil laws comes into conflict, then the Constitution has priority. I believe that is all it is saying.
 
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bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
I am with you Ed. I could not in good conscience swear to uphold some of those laws that are immoral, anti Biblical, and perverse. This does not mean that I am suggesting anarchy. I voted for our President and would hope to do so again in the next presidential election.

I did not vote for The Child in 2016, as he's intellectually and temperamentally unsuited for the job. I voted the third-party option as a protest vote. And I won't vote for The Child in 2020, either. And I'm still amazed at the number of evangelical "leaders" who were willing to ignore The Child's unacceptable moral failings, thinking they might get close to power if he won.

(I'm not attacking you, Jimmy. Everybody gets to vote for who he or she wants. Just giving my opinion.)
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
Let me preface this with the fact that I certainly wouldn't ever want to encourage you to act against your conscience by voting unless you were fully convinced of its permissibility.

If you notice in my OP I still DO vote, but lately, I have been thinking it through again. It is personally holding public office that I could not do. Thankfully I don't have to worry about it since no one is nominating me. Not even for dog-catcher. :)
 
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JimmyH

Puritan Board Senior
(I'm not attacking you, Jimmy. Everybody gets to vote for who he or she wants. Just giving my opinion.)
Thank you Richard. In 2012 I voted for a Mormon heretic rather than the alternative. I felt he was by far the lesser of two evils. (I remember the 'lesser of two evils' thread, no need to go there again) In this case though, if HRC had won the day I shudder to think where this country would be headed. Supreme court picks, DOJ, FBI and what have you.

With unborn babies being sacrificed daily on the alter of self centeredness I feel it is too important to allow my personal feelings to get in the way of voting for someone who opposes abortion, favors gun control, and some of the perverse court decisions that have been made in the past decade.
 
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Held Fast

Puritan Board Freshman
I do not read the WCF or the LBCF as advocating the establishment of a theocracy, and indeed Calvin's experience with Geneva exposed many of the issues that grew into the need for the separation of the State from the Church. I've taken and administered the military oaths on more times than I can remember, and each time I note that its to support a document, not the current political class, and not all of the laws of the land. The document itself acknowledges that the government does not have the right to usurp rights God Himself granted His creation, so an oath to protect that document is an oath to preserve God's sovereignty over man ... in principle. In practice, yes it looks less noble. But part of that document is the right of the Covenanters to dissent, or for you not seek public office - the Government is prohibited from forcing that upon you. And its also prohibited from forcing even the oath sworn to violate their conscience (my ministry role was created 242 years ago next month just to ensure that doesn't happen.)
 

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
Thank you Richard. In 2012 I voted for a Mormon heretic rather than the alternative. I felt he was by far the lesser of two evils. (I remember the 'lesser of two evils' thread, no need to go there again) In this case though, if HRC had won the day I shudder to think where this country would be headed. Supreme court picks, DOJ, FBI and what have you.

With unborn babies being sacrificed daily on the alter of self centeredness I feel it is too important to allow my personal feelings to get in the way of voting for someone who opposes abortion, gun control, and some of the perverse court decisions that have been made in the past decade.

I hear you. It's getting to be a tough call every four years.
 

ADKing

Puritan Board Junior
I do not read the WCF or the LBCF as advocating the establishment of a theocracy, and indeed Calvin's experience with Geneva exposed many of the issues that grew into the need for the separation of the State from the Church.

I don't mean to stray too far away from the OP, but couldn't help but address this in passing. I do not know what you mean by the term "theocracy" (a term susceptible to different interpretations). But historically speaking, the Westminster Assembly did support the Establishment principle and taught the same. E.g.:

Q. 191. What do we pray for in the second petition?

A. In the second petition, (which is, Thy kingdom come,) acknowledging ourselves and all mankind to be by nature under the dominion of sin and Satan, we pray, that the kingdom of sin and Satan may be destroyed, the gospel propagated throughout the world, the Jews called, the fullness of the Gentiles brought in; the church furnished with all gospel-officers and ordinances, purged from corruption, countenanced and maintained by the civil magistrate: that the ordinances of Christ may be purely dispensed, and made effectual to the converting of those that are yet in their sins, and the confirming, comforting, and building up of those that are already converted: that Christ would rule in our hearts here, and hasten the time of his second coming, and our reigning with him forever: and that he would be pleased so to exercise the kingdom of his power in all the world, as may best conduce to these ends.

This can be seen further in the Solemn League and Covenant which was a "charter document" of sorts guiding the purpose of the Assembly, and in numerous writings of individual members of the Assembly.

However one deals with the ethical problem posed in the OP, the answer cannot be by trying to claim that the First Amendment which prohibits the establishment of a national religion is somehow consistent with the aims and views of the Westminster Standards. You may argue that the Westminster Assembly was wrong about this, but I think it would be hard denying that this was its view.
 

Andrew P.C.

Puritan Board Junior
I don't mean to stray too far away from the OP, but couldn't help but address this in passing. I do not know what you mean by the term "theocracy" (a term susceptible to different interpretations). But historically speaking, the Westminster Assembly did support the Establishment principle and taught the same. E.g.:

Q. 191. What do we pray for in the second petition?

A. In the second petition, (which is, Thy kingdom come,) acknowledging ourselves and all mankind to be by nature under the dominion of sin and Satan, we pray, that the kingdom of sin and Satan may be destroyed, the gospel propagated throughout the world, the Jews called, the fullness of the Gentiles brought in; the church furnished with all gospel-officers and ordinances, purged from corruption, countenanced and maintained by the civil magistrate: that the ordinances of Christ may be purely dispensed, and made effectual to the converting of those that are yet in their sins, and the confirming, comforting, and building up of those that are already converted: that Christ would rule in our hearts here, and hasten the time of his second coming, and our reigning with him forever: and that he would be pleased so to exercise the kingdom of his power in all the world, as may best conduce to these ends.

This can be seen further in the Solemn League and Covenant which was a "charter document" of sorts guiding the purpose of the Assembly, and in numerous writings of individual members of the Assembly.

However one deals with the ethical problem posed in the OP, the answer cannot be by trying to claim that the First Amendment which prohibits the establishment of a national religion is somehow consistent with the aims and views of the Westminster Standards. You may argue that the Westminster Assembly was wrong about this, but I think it would be hard denying that this was its view.


You could have quote from the 23rd chapter of the Confession as well:

“The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven: yet he hath authority, and it is his duty, to take order, that unity and peace be preserved in the Church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire; that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed; all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed; and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed.For the better effecting whereof, he hath power to call synods, to be present at them, and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God.” (23.3)
 

Held Fast

Puritan Board Freshman
In the citations above there is a clear separation between the civil magistrate and church leadership - I take theocracy to mean no separation: the church and the civil authority are one. While the WCF has authority over the church, it does not have authority over the state, and while the citations indicate a desire that the civil magistrate protect the church (WCF 19) and possibly that church discipline be a matter turned over to the civil magistrate (WCF 23) or probably a natural law application of civil authority to God's law, we still wind up with a clear teaching of separation in that the civil magistrate is not an elder, and an elder is not a civil magistrate. I would agree that the WA was interested in establishing the Kingdom on earth, but that is short of establishment of a national religion by way of the civil magistrate, particular given anti-Rome sentiments, and many of the post-Geneva discussions. One view requires imposition on those outside the church using the government as means, the other accepts God's work of adding to His kingdom and ordaining governments as complimentary but not synonymous works. The latter seems more in keeping with the doctrines of Grace than the former, and so I'd find it hard to see the WA drifting away from their doctrinal convictions. But that is a matter for those under the WCF to debate ... I confess the LBCF so I am not "qualified" to have an authoritative view on WA matters.
 

TheOldCourse

Puritan Board Sophomore
In the citations above there is a clear separation between the civil magistrate and church leadership - I take theocracy to mean no separation: the church and the civil authority are one. While the WCF has authority over the church, it does not have authority over the state, and while the citations indicate a desire that the civil magistrate protect the church (WCF 19) and possibly that church discipline be a matter turned over to the civil magistrate (WCF 23) or probably a natural law application of civil authority to God's law, we still wind up with a clear teaching of separation in that the civil magistrate is not an elder, and an elder is not a civil magistrate. I would agree that the WA was interested in establishing the Kingdom on earth, but that is short of establishment of a national religion by way of the civil magistrate, particular given anti-Rome sentiments, and many of the post-Geneva discussions. One view requires imposition on those outside the church using the government as means, the other accepts God's work of adding to His kingdom and ordaining governments as complimentary but not synonymous works. The latter seems more in keeping with the doctrines of Grace than the former, and so I'd find it hard to see the WA drifting away from their doctrinal convictions. But that is a matter for those under the WCF to debate ... I confess the LBCF so I am not "qualified" to have an authoritative view on WA matters.

There is no doubt that the Westminster Assembly was establishmentarian but that does not entail that the magistrate is an elder. Calvin's Geneva did not conform to how you define a theocracy either. Calvin's "two kingdoms" theology recognized the separation of powers but, as opposed to more radical two kingdoms proponents, also the magistrate's responsibility to support and propagate true religion in his domain. Westminster's position was little different. Magistrates do not rule the church--indeed even the king is subject to church discipline--but they are to use their power for the common weal and a large part of that is promoting true religion and suppressing heresy and idolatry.
 

Andrew P.C.

Puritan Board Junior
In the citations above there is a clear separation between the civil magistrate and church leadership - I take theocracy to mean no separation: the church and the civil authority are one. While the WCF has authority over the church, it does not have authority over the state, and while the citations indicate a desire that the civil magistrate protect the church (WCF 19) and possibly that church discipline be a matter turned over to the civil magistrate (WCF 23) or probably a natural law application of civil authority to God's law, we still wind up with a clear teaching of separation in that the civil magistrate is not an elder, and an elder is not a civil magistrate. I would agree that the WA was interested in establishing the Kingdom on earth, but that is short of establishment of a national religion by way of the civil magistrate, particular given anti-Rome sentiments, and many of the post-Geneva discussions. One view requires imposition on those outside the church using the government as means, the other accepts God's work of adding to His kingdom and ordaining governments as complimentary but not synonymous works. The latter seems more in keeping with the doctrines of Grace than the former, and so I'd find it hard to see the WA drifting away from their doctrinal convictions. But that is a matter for those under the WCF to debate ... I confess the LBCF so I am not "qualified" to have an authoritative view on WA matters.

This is a misunderstanding of the establishment principle. The WA wasn’t Erastian. Kingdom needs to be defined, but generally speaking, in the 25th chapter we are told that the church is the Kingdom of Christ.
 

Held Fast

Puritan Board Freshman
I'm seeing two differing uses of the word establishmentarian; is it to establish the Church (Kingdom of Christ) regardless of the surrounding nation, or to establish a Kingdom of Christ which includes both the Church and the surrounding nation? I understand establishment theocrats as those desirous of the latter; that is how the term is applied to ISIS for example, or the Wahab who desire an Islamic caliphate, a blending of church and state, with separate clergy and magistrates, and sharia - theocratic and theonomic. I've a background in Islam, and comparatives, and so I am using my terms from that perspective.

Its been argued that the magisterial reformers were non-theonomic theocrats; theocrats in that Christ is actual king over all earthly and heavenly matters, but non-theonomic in that they did not argue for the establishment of eternal law in temporal kingdoms (i.e. Mosaic law passed away with Mosaic polity, American law will pass away with American polity). The WCF for example therefore cannot be binding on the magistrate, if the temporal polity does not recognize the authority of the WCF. And the magistrate therefore will neither promote true religion nor punish heresy or idolatry, nor would we want them to. The WA may have been establishmentarian, but when put together with a non-theonomic position, it may have been more of an ideal, than a requirement. 25 suggests that those of us in the Kingdom of Christ know we are bound to the eternal law; Romans 13 indicates we are likewise bound to the temporal law of the polity in which we find ourselves, as God has ordained the magistrate even when he is not himself a citizen of the Kingdom of Christ. The American Experiment In my humble opinion is the best compromise - a secular temporal polity which is bound by Constitution from meddling in the Kingdom of Christ because of an a priori position on the reality of an Eternal (Natural) Law over which Christ is King. For me to take an oath to support and defend said Constitution is both non-theonomic and theocratic short of establishmentarian, and not dependent on the eternal citizenship of the magistrate.
 
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Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
For me to take an oath to support and defend said Constitution is both non-theonomic and theocratic short of establishmentarian, and not dependent on the eternal citizenship of the magistrate.

Thanks for your comments. The only question I have is the sentence quoted from your post. I couldn't tell whether or not you believe you could take such an oath or not, or maybe I misread something. So the question is. Would you, or would you not take an oath to "support and defend said Constitution?"

Thanks again.
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
To follow on Edward: Rob has certainly taken an oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution as an officer (chaplain) in the U.S. Navy/Marines.

Thank you for your service, Commander.

Peace,
Alan
 
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