Christian Freedom of Conscience: Obama versus the Catholic Church

Obama Attacks Christianity

The news this week (today is Friday, February 10th, 2012) is alive with people, both conservatives and liberals, aghast at what the Obama administration did in its ruling that the Roman Catholic Church must give up its conviction about contraceptives. It gives me a measure of hope to see people on both sides of the aisle in an uproar, though the hard core left are dug in. We are so compromised that most do not get upset about anything. We must hear what Benjamin Franklin stated: “Those who give up some of their liberty in order to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty, nor safety.

But we’re collapsing under the weight of our own sins, like a rotten superstructure. We’ll compromise almost anything for the sake of personal peace and prosperity. “Lord, just let my children grow up first.” Or, “Lord please let me enjoy my house, car–whatever–for a little while first.” But those who put anything before the Lord are part of the problem. We must train our children to be righteous in believing the Gospel and to be faithful covenant seed, serpent slayers for Jesus (Romans 16:20). Remember that Daniel was only a teen when he was taken captive to Babylon, and he stood strong his whole life. What is loyalty to Christ worth to you? Can you give up your house, your fortune, your life? If not, we are not worthy to be His disciples (Luke 14:26-27).

Moreover, we need good theology, the creeds, not hype, not positive confession, not entertainment on Sundays. Don’t expect most popular ministers to take a stand; they have too much to lose in their mega-churches, mega-buildings, mega-ministries, and mega-bucks, though there have been exceptions, such as D. James Kennedy (who is now at home with the Lord). Christ has already won, has been enthroned on high, and Christ is the majority. All He needs is one person of faith, or for a few Christians to wake up, and fight the war that is all around us. Remember Gideon who conquered with a handful.  It will cost us.

But we are being snookered by those deceivers who want us Christians to shut up in the name of neutrality. There are two things that really get my ire up: that some things are religious and some things not, and that we Christians have values like everyone else.

Regarding the first that some things are not religious, this is a tactic by the left to make us think that Christ is not Lord of some areas of life. We often hear people say such things as concern for a woman’s health is not a religious issue, but a social one, which means the liberal left can then do what it wants. In other words, if they can define what it means to be religious, they will not allow the Church to have any say. But I’m not arguing for the conservative right, for they are just as guilty, thinking that public education is neutral, that we can teach children without any moral standard, that the “god” behind education does not matter.

Regarding values, all I can say is please get my book, NOT Ten Suggestions, and especially read the first few chapters where I show that behind every law system is some implied god, and that the Triune God does not allow people to have values. He has imposed His Ten Commandments, not His Ten Suggestions on us, and every person―whether Islamic, Buddhist, secular atheist, or Christian―is subject to His law. His moral code is already imposed on everyone whether they like it or not. We do not get to choose “values,” for that was the lie of Satan to Eve in the garden, and I constantly hear Christians talk of their “values.” I hate values; I love God’s law. Values are personal, arbitrary choices; the law-word of the great King cannot be overthrown. One either obeys His law in the context of believing the Gospel and is blessed, or one disobeys and is cursed. There is no neutral, third option. The real question is who is Lord and whose law is sovereign.

In Psalm two, we see the nations rebelling against the LORD and His Messiah, but God rules over them through His Messiah. Notice that the Psalm is in four stanzas, and reveals that God’s law is for the nations of the world. In the first stanza, the nations rebel against the Lord and against His Messiah. In the second stanza, God laughs at such rebellion, for He is absolutely sovereign, and has installed His Messiah as King of the world regardless what they say. In stanza three, the Messiah speaks, saying that the Father has given Him the nations to rule. In the final stanza, the nations and leaders are commanded to repent, to kiss the Son, less they perish. Remember that this Psalm was written by King David almost 1,000 years before Christ came. If the nations must repent, it means that His law is supreme, not their alleged “neutral” law. “Natural” law is not neutral moral law invented by pagan rebels, but the work of God’s law written on the hearts of unbelievers, which they can’t help but recognize (Romans 2:15). They very fact that all nations and people will be judged by His law indicates that His law is supreme, not theirs.

1 Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed [Messiah], saying, 3 “Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.”

4 He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the LORD shall hold them in derision. 5 Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure: 6 “Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion.”

7 “I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, ‘You areMy Son, today I have begotten You. 8 Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

10 Now therefore, be wise, O kings; be instructed, you judges of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish inthe way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed areall those who put their trust in Him. (Psalm 2)

This Psalm shows there is spiritual warfare regarding who rules the world. The nations of the earth claim that they will rule, and so they rebel against God the Father and His Son, but the Father responds that He has installed His King, the Son, and that the nations must repent or be destroyed. Repent means to turn from sin, and in this Psalm sin is rebellion against the Lord and His Messiah.

We see the same Messiah as Lord in the New Testament. Consider Romans 10:9:

If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

Why did the Apostle Paul choose the expression “Jesus as Lord”? Was there something in Paul’s culture that needed to be addressed? The history of the expression “Jesus as Lord” is very enlightening.[1] The Roman emperors Augustus (31 B.C.-A.D. 14) and Tiberius (A.D. 14-37) rejected the expression “Lord.” But Caligula (A.D. 37-41) accepted it. The Roman Caesar, Nero (reigned A.D. 54-68), under whom Paul was executed, is described in an inscription as “Lord of all the world.” The title “Lord” was very common both of Nero and of many Roman emperors subsequent to him. In fact the same Greek grammatical construction “Nero as Lord” is used in writing on the papyri (paper) and on ostraca (pottery) of Nero’s time. Once a year, all people under Rome’s authority were required to offer a sacrifice and confess “Nero as Lord.” “It was against such a religious claim, which demanded so much of the burdened conscience, that the Christians turned and rejected the totalitarian attitudes of the state.”[2]

Here is the point. The Roman emperors did not mind its citizens worshipping any god they chose as long as once a year they proclaimed the Caesar as the ultimate Lord, meaning that Caesar was the Lord of lords. And the emperors did not think of the divine title “Lord” without the implication of obedience, for if this had been so, why did they murder so many Christians for refusing to worship them? The ultimate lawgiver had the right to demand obedience over all other lawgivers. Caesar claimed ultimate lordship, ultimate obedience, and thus the right of absolute obedience, which directly conflicted with the authority of Jesus. Many centuries before Christ came, Daniel wrote:

20 Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His. 21 and He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding” (Daniel 2:20-21).

The very early father, Polycarp, who knew the Apostle John, chose to be burned at the stake rather than confess Nero as Lord, though once a year the Caesar required its citizens to to confess him as Lord. Polycarp stated, “Eighty and six years I’ve served Christ, and He has done me no harm. Why should I deny Him now?”  He said this in the arena before thousands, and was then burned alive.  Christians today don’t want to give up their homes, much less their lives. Our own government is making the same claim today, not caring what god one worships as long as its citizens give ultimate allegiance and confession to the federal government. Thus the Roman Catholic Church can have some freedom of practice as long as it bows to Caesar’s definition of what religion is, and what conscience is. Obama, our modern Caesar, will regulate the Catholic Church’s conscience, and it must at least confess that Caesar has that right. Of course, one compromise of confessing Caesar as Lord would lead to many other compromises.

Jesus allegedly has no place in the public arena, in political elections, in government, in our schools, in the officials we elect, in the laws of sexuality and abortion, or in the forced redistribution of wealth through taxation. It is allegedly a confusion of Church and state for the Church or for Christians to “force” their morality on society, but it is acceptable for the secularists to force their morality on the Church, for they are allegedly not religious but neutral. Jesus must be confined to an ever decreasing private Church. It is politically correct to be religiously “neutral” about all religions except Christianity. One can bash Christians and Christianity with approval.

The reason Christians are hated is still the same: We recognize no ultimate King but Jesus, which means the government and the public ethics of abortion, sexual disobedience, can be judged, which is intolerable today. We Christians delight in obeying the government, as we are instructed to do in Romans 13, but when it conflicts with the Commander in Chief, the Kings of kings and Lord of lords, we must obey God rather than man.

The ACLU insists that the Jesus God stay out of the public arena under the mistaken guise of separation of Church and state, misinterpreting the Constitution to mean freedom from religion rather than freedom for religion. As Francis Schaeffer so insightfully pointed out several decades ago, when we allow the state to define religion, we have lost. The state will then completely eat up the Church, nature devouring grace, as he put it. But the Constitution itself is under, not over, King Jesus and His law. Christians are allowed, for now, to confess Jesus as Lord privately but not publicly. “There is nothing new under the sun.” England is considering legislation to criminalize Christian practice in public while they have appointed a Muslim as the head of religion in a government post in England.[3] This is all out spiritual warfare as given in Psalm two above. Christ is the head of all chains of authority. Only He is Lord of lords.

Regarding whether to fight or not, we have no choice. The spiritual war is all around us. We do not use physical weapons but spiritual ones (2 Corinthians 10:4-6); namely, the power of the Gospel itself. Consider the insightful words of Patrick Henry on the eve of the Declaration of Independence whether they should fight the British, whether there would be war:

“It is vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry peace, peace, but there is no peace. The war is actually begun. The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms. Our brethren are already in the field. Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” [emphasis added]

The spiritual war is all around us. We are already in it. We will either be a casualty or a warrior; there are no other choices, for there is no neutrality. Amen.

[1] The history is from: Adolph Deismann, Light from the Ancient East (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978), pp. 350-357; Colin Brown, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971), 2:511-515; C. E. B. Cranfield, The International Critical Commentary: The Epistle to the Romans (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1979), 2:526ff.

[2] New International Dictionary of the New Testament Theology, 2:511.

3 thoughts on “Christian Freedom of Conscience: Obama versus the Catholic Church

  1. Pingback: Dean Curtis Crenshaw: “Christian Freedom of Conscience: Obama vs. the Catholic Church” « Prydain

  2. Dr. Crenshaw, thanks for writing this piece. I think you have shown that all Christians in the U.S. are at risk when the government oversteps its bounds. No longer can a man quietly worship and practice his faith–even that man is subject to the trampling of his freedom to worship by the political powers.

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