The American Declaration

Status
Not open for further replies.

PuritanCovenanter

The Joyful Curmudgeon
Staff member
Here is my opinion. Okay, quit laughing.

It is a strongly worded document. It is true and right in my estimation. This is why I am praying for the Spirit to enlighten Society that in order to pursue a good life, the Moral Law has to be known and understood for what it is. It is the Law of Love. The Decalogue is the Law of Love. It is what shows us the way. It is what guides us back to knowing what is good and right when we do fail. It calls for us to be humble as well as loving and forgiving. It starts off with God's Love bringing his people out of bondage.
Exo 20:1 And God spake all these words, saying,
Exo 20:2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.


Mat 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
Mat 22:38 This is the first and great commandment.
Mat 22:39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Mat 22:40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

I like the document but if I was reading it with unconverted American ears I wouldn't understand it. I also wouldn't care. I would first be inclined to fight for Liberty from Tyranny just because that is what I learned as an American child. I wouldn't understand this total allegiance to a religion about a man. I am just telling you what I have experienced from talking with the friends of my kids. I have to start somewhere and most of the time it comes down to questions about who makes the rules and what grid do we use to guide us. I have been pretty successful with the kids who are all now around 30. At the same time I keep remembering... 1Co 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

We live in some pretty cool exciting times. LOL SMH. I am really Glad I aint Canadian.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
Further, it is the obligation of the Church to...obey [the state] within the bounds of the moral law...
I appreciate your post. It was really helpful. I would push back a little here. The Westminster Standards do not consider "lawful commands" from the state to be merely anything that is "within the bounds of the moral law." That is too broad. Rather, in addition to being bound by the moral law, the state has a God-given jurisdiction, which they may not transgress, so that any command outside of that jurisdiction, even if it is not a violation of the moral law, is still unlawful, and is free to be disregarded.
 

Anti-Babylon

Puritan Board Freshman
Accordingly, I would say, in answer to your challenge, that a better hope of effectiveness, peaceableness, and edification would be to reframe the document as a humble petition

But why? I would think a humble petition would serve as notice that the church is willing to overlook abuses already enacted in the recent past and serve as unintended invitation for the civil government to re-frame mandates in such a way that allows restrictions to worship to be seen as necessary even if temporary - which ignores the fact that they have already framed restrictions in that exact same manner.

So why would such a call for a humble petition be preferable to a more direct and concise statement that religious restrictions will not be complied to?
 

CovenantWord

Puritan Board Freshman
I appreciate your post. It was really helpful. I would push back a little here. The Westminster Standards do not consider "lawful commands" from the state to be merely anything that is "within the bounds of the moral law." That is too broad. Rather, in addition to being bound by the moral law, the state has a God-given jurisdiction, which they may not transgress, so that any command outside of that jurisdiction, even if it is not a violation of the moral law, is still unlawful, and is free to be disregarded.
Thank you for the encouragement.
You propose a category of activity which would be permissible under the moral law, but are beyond the confines of the divine mandate for civil government. In light of your challenge, I reviewed the relevant sections, but I was unable to discern where the Standards delineate such a category. Perhaps you could enlighten me with a more specific reference? My memory was refreshed with three stated limitations to government authority, which strike me as relevant to this discussion:
1) God ordained the civil magistrates for the public good (WCF 23.1). But, how do we discern the good, public or private, except by the moral law? This would include responsible stewardship of finances, protection of life, and promotion of the truth.
2) God leaves the conscience free from the commandments of men in anything contrary to His Word (WCF 20.2). In the same chapter, two paragraphs later, this doctrine is specified that God ordains the lawful exercise of lawful power (WCF 20.4). I believe that "law" in the Standards always refers to the moral law, unless specifically designated as the ceremonial law or the theocratic civil law of ancient Israel. Further, it is a particular act of conscience to obey lawful commands (WCF 23.4).
3) God forbids the civil magistrates to administer the sacraments, to enact Church discipline, or to interfere in matters of faith (WCF 23.3). Since the Reformed tradition understands the Regulative Principle of Worship to arise necessarily from the Second Word, I submit that this restriction is also comprehended by the moral law. Surely Uzzah's demise is dramatic confirmation thereof (2 Sam. 6:6-7).
I conclude from this survey that the moral law circumscribes all civil government undertakings and commands.
 

Anti-Babylon

Puritan Board Freshman
1) God ordained the civil magistrates for the public good (WCF 23.1). But, how do we discern the good, public or private, except by the moral law? This would include responsible stewardship of finances, protection of life, and promotion of the truth.

Would it not also include the right to worship in assembly? And if a conflict arises, then one good outweighs another and the right to worship God in our way is the highest good and this document declares that.
I believe that "law" in the Standards always refers to the moral law,

I agree here.
I conclude from this survey that the moral law circumscribes all civil government undertakings and commands.

I have no problem with this conclusion. I do wonder how and why the right to worship is not seemingly included in the moral law by yourself and certainly fail to see how that right cannot possibly do anything else but transcend any civil undertakings and commands.
 

CovenantWord

Puritan Board Freshman
But why? I would think a humble petition would serve as notice that the church is willing to overlook abuses already enacted in the recent past and serve as unintended invitation for the civil government to re-frame mandates in such a way that allows restrictions to worship to be seen as necessary even if temporary - which ignores the fact that they have already framed restrictions in that exact same manner.

So why would such a call for a humble petition be preferable to a more direct and concise statement that religious restrictions will not be complied to?
Yes, a humble approach might be exploited, for the world is capable of much foolishness and cruelty; but I'm sure you would agree that gentleness carries its own peculiar strength, for a soft answer turns away wrath. Is a national leader who is hardhearted enough to despise a petition likely to respect the peremptory, wide-ranging demands of a group bereft of visible political power?
We recall, of course, Jesus' teaching that the default mode for the sons of God is peacemaking. The loci classicus for attitude toward civil authority commands deference (Rom. 13:1-7, 1 Pet. 2:13-17).
The polarization in our nation is growing increasingly toxic, and I fear I detect the odor of self-righteousness arising from both sides. I emphasize that I do not notice this in the "Declaration," but this sin is so prevalent, even on the Christian side, that it behooves Church leadership to avoid stances that could plausibly support it. Or, to put the matter positively, it is almost a pastoral necessity to actively resist intransigence in cultural discussions.
One of the advantages of a humble petition is that it induces the framers to imagine the perspective of the recipient authority. Such a one, even in good faith, might wonder about an absence of stated gratitude for the many and extensive liberties enjoyed by the Christian Church in this nation, even in areas complained against in the "Declaration."
A disinterested civil servant could be forgiven for viewing the "Declaration" as overwrought. SCOTUS has recently consistently followed the legal principle of strict scrutiny for restrictions of size of religious assembly, even during the recent epidemic. See RC Diocese v. Cuomo, Tandon v. Newsom, and Grace Community Church v. Newsom. Strict scrutiny means that the government regulation must further a compelling government interest and must be narrowly tailored to achieve that interest. This stringent test forbids, for instance, unjustly requiring public worship assemblies to be smaller than gatherings for other public purposes. In my judgment, this principle so applied renders moot the fundamental complaint of the "Declaration." If that turns out to be true, then a humble petition could be withdrawn with more dignity than a don't-tread-on-me demand.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top