Copyright © December 31, 2012
Note. This is a modified version of Section IV, Chapter 3 of God Betrayed: Separation of Church and State/The Biblical Principles and the American Application. Audio Teachings on the History of the First Amendment has links to the audio teaching of Jerald Finney on the history of the First Amendment.
“Wherefore hear the word of the LORD, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem. Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves: Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it” (Is. 28.14-18).
Neither Christian nor secular revisionism will bring desirable consequences. If the Christian revisionists had their way, the church and state would be working together in America to bring in the kingdom of heaven on earth. There would be no First Amendment to the United States Constitution, no religious liberty, and the persecution would continue.
Sadly, the secularist Frederick Clarkson is right when he writes:
“[T]he Christian nationalist narrative has a fatal flaw: it is based on revisionist history that does not stand up under scrutiny. The bad news is that to true believers, it does not have to stand up to the facts of history to be a powerful and animating part of the once and future Christian nation. Indeed, through a growing cottage industry of Christian revisionist books and lectures now dominating the curricula of home schools and many private Christian academies, Christian nationalism has become a central feature of the political identity of children growing up in the movement. The contest for control of the narrative of American history is well underway” (Frederick Clarkson, “Why the Christian Right Distorts History and Why it Matters,” PublicEye.org (Spring 2007): online at http://www.publiceye.org/magazine/v21n2/history.html.).
He is partially correct in pointing out that:
“We’ve seen how religious beliefs (and other ideologies) inspire people to view others as subhuman, deviant, and deserving of whatever happens to them, including death Ibid. (). It is the stuff of persecution, pogroms, and warfare. The framers of the U.S. Constitution struggled with how to inoculate the new nation against these ills, and in many respects the struggle continues today” (Ibid.).
He is right when those beliefs are based upon certain false theologies. Such religious beliefs led to the murder of millions of Christians who were viewed by the established churches as dangerous heretics. However, his statement cannot be applied correctly to the true Christianity which fought for freedom of religion in America and which has effects opposite those he mentions. Christians who practiced and taught biblical principles concerning separation of church and state have been persecuted since the time of Christ and their stand in the face of persecution ultimately gave America religious liberty. This section of chapters records the history of those Christians.
Mr. Clarkson then goes on to factually tear apart some of the assertions being made by what he calls the Christian nationalists. For example, he asserts:
“John Blanchard [a current “Christian” leader] claims that the Jamestown landing signifies that, ‘We were started as a Christian nation and I feel it’s God’s purpose we stay a Christian nation.’ Indeed, to read the Assembly 2007 website, one would think that the King had sent missionaries to Virginia. Far from it. The London Company behind the venture pooled investors interested in making money. For years it floundered badly. Eventually, the company gave up the commercial charter and control reverted to the Crown. The gauzy view of Christians claiming the land for Christ and King is clarified by history.
“When news of the Assembly 2007 and Blanchard’s claim reached Joe Conn at Americans United for Separation of Church and State, he pulled out his history books in rebuttal: ‘According to Anson Phelps Stokes’s Church and State in the United States, the London Company’s November 20, 1606 ‘Articles, Instructions, and Orders’ did, indeed, demand that the prospective American colony ‘provide that the true word, and service of God and Christian faith be preached.’ But the charter added that the ‘true word’ must be ‘according to the doctrine, rights, and religion now professed and established within our regime in England’” (Ibid., pp. 2-3).
Christian revisionists Peter Marshall and David Manuel include some truth in their revisionism. They wrote, amidst many historical revisions, that Jamestown was a disaster and that the people who settled the colony were motivated by greed and not the love of the Lord (Peter Marshall and David Manuel, The Light and the Glory, (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1977), pp. 80-105). As will be seen, although undoubtedly there probably were godly ministers in the established church, much of the clergy of the Anglican church in Virginia prior to the Revolution had loose morals, were mainly concerned about their financial security, and were lacking in biblical and spiritual knowledge. The clergy of that church fought to keep their establishment to the bitter end. By far their most consistent and determined opponents were the Baptists. A publication of a law firm that encourages churches to become corporate 501(c)(3) religious organizations recently led off with an article laughingly entitled (to one who knows the real facts about the settlement) “Jamestown, Where America Became a Christian Nation” (“Jamestown: Where America Became a Christian Nation,” Legal Alert (Monthly Newsletter of the Christian Law Association), April 2007, p. 1). The author, unnamed, states some truth in the article but also gives a totally distorted view of the early history of Jamestown and fails to mention the depravity of the people who originally settled there. Neither Marshall and Manuel nor the author of the aforementioned article make mention that the theology behind the settlement was ecclesiocratic and against religious liberty: the “Articles, Instructions, and Orders” from the homeland said that the “‘true word’ must be ‘according to the doctrine, rights, and religion now professed and established within our regime in England’” (Marshall and Manuel, pp. 80-105; see Clarkson for this excerpt from “Articles, Instructions, and Orders” from the homeland.).
Some of what Christian revisionists such as Marshall, Manuel, and Rousas John Rushdoony teach is factual, but it is incomplete, intermixed with lies, and slanted to praise and promote their false theology which teaches that God’s principles for the theocracy in Israel are to be applied by the church and that the church, working with the state, will bring peace and unity to the earth. In order to further their cause, the adherents must lie and revise history. They must and do condemn the true theology and its adherents out of which came religious freedom in America.
Since they do not believe in free-will, the Christian revisionist has to attribute everything to the providence of God. Mr. Clarkson is correct when he says:
“Indeed, the general approach [R.J.] Rushdoony outlined has become widely accepted among Christian nationalists, specifically that God actively intervenes in and guides history, and that God’s role can be retroactively discerned, from creation to the predestined Kingdom of God on Earth. Historical events described as ‘God’s providence’ are then interpreted in terms of what God must have been up to. This is how Rushdoony arrives at what he called Christian history, based on ‘Christian revisionism’” (Frederick Clarkson, “Why the Christian Right Distorts History and Why it Matters,” PublicEye.org (Spring 2007): online at http://www.publiceye.org/magazine/v21n2/history.html, p. 2).
Of course there is such a thing as the providence of God. But the Christian revisionist concept of God’s providence is totally unbalanced by an incorrect view of the free will of man. The most that revisionists of the founding era (and probably those of today, if the truth be known) might assert about free will is that if a man has it and uses it wrongly, those with superior insight must step in to correct him, and if he refuses to be enlightened, he must, when the revisionist has the power, be banished, imprisoned, tortured, and/or killed.
Just as the church-state dilemmas of the past and those of the present have not been correctly answered by false theology, even though professed to be from God, neither is the answer supplied by secularists such as Mr. Clarkson. As expected of a secularist, Mr. Clarkson, in trashing the Christian right, adds in some of his own revisionism and inaccuracies, and uses his human reasoning. His proposals cannot and will not work. For example, he says that the rest of society needs not only to
“recognize the role of creeping Christian historical revisionism, but also our need to craft a compelling and shared story of American history, particularly as it relates to the role of religion and society. We need it in order to know not how the religious Right is wrong, but to know where we ourselves stand in the light of history, in relation to each other, and how we can better envision a future together free of religious prejudice, and ultimately, religious warfare”(Ibid.).
Mr. Clarkson, who by his own admission is not a Christian, understandably does not comprehend the doctrine of holiness which runs throughout Scripture. In any institution, including any civil government, anytime the unholy is mixed with the holy, the unholy will corrupt the holy. A civil government made up of true Christians who know, teach, and practice truth and lost people will be corrupted because the worldly wisdom of the lost will pollute the Godly wisdom of the Christians. The good will not prevail, at least in the long run. An unsaved person cannot know, understand, and apply truth and the wisdom which is from above. All Mr. Clarkson’s wisdom is of this world, which is “foolishness with God.” (1 Co. 3.19). “The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain” (1 Co. 3.20).
Mr. Clarkson is right about religion. But what he says about religion cannot be said about true Christianity. True Christianity is a man, the God-man, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the religious perversion of the teachings of Christ that brings all the tragedies referred to by Mr. Clarkson. The greatest tragedy is that many will never come to the One who can give them true liberty, the Lord Jesus Christ. It appears that many who have come to Him have been deceived about, for one thing, the roles of church and state and their relationship to each other and to God because they have not become partakers of the divine nature, having not added to their faith, virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge temperance, to temperance patience, to patience godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity (See 2 Pe. 1.3-9). Perhaps an individual Christian has added some of these ingredients to his life, but what about the others? What about knowledge?
Only a civil government whose leader or leaders are truly Christian can prevent the decline of a nation. This would require solid Christian churches teaching the principles of the Bible accurately operating freely within that nation and made up of the majority of the people of that nation including the leader or leaders of the nation all of whom are sincerely attempting to understand and apply biblical principles.
When a professed believer substitutes his reasoning for reality, when he revises historical facts and/or lies to and about other believers in order to advance his underlying theology, something is wrong with his theology. The consequences of such a strategy will ultimately backfire, as it is backfiring today in America, because even secularists, when truth about facts will aid them, will reveal that truth. And when it is revealed that Christians, whom the secularist calls the “Christian right,” have seemingly borrowed a page from the secular book of tactics and resorted to revising history and to lying, the effectiveness of Christian spiritual warfare is much weakened.
The existence of Mr. Clarkson’s article and much other secular writing reveal the vulnerability of the Christian right position as it has been promoted in America. It is sad that Clarkson includes pertinent quotes (out of context) from men such as Roger Williams, Isaac Backus, and even Thomas Jefferson who are not usually quoted by Christian revisionists. It is sad that Christian revisionists, in their effort to deceive the entire Christian community and advance their agenda of a united church and state so that the resulting union of church and state can bring in the kingdom of heaven, have belittled, misrepresented, and/or totally ignored great men such as Roger Williams, Dr. John Clarke, Isaac Backus, Shubal Stearns, John Leland and others. Their efforts have done great and irreparable damage to the cause of Christ. The author was led by Christian revisionists for over twenty years. In order to be effective in his efforts in his stand for the Lord, he had to be willing to admit that he had been mislead and that the Lord did not honor professed believers who were taking part in a spiritual battle having their loins girt about with lies. “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth…” (Ep. 6.13-14a). [Emphasis mine.]